A contract at Chicago State University that state officials singled out in a recent audit was part of a three-year program that provided millions of textbooks for elementary school students in Ghana.
CSU got the grant from the United States Agency for International Development, in turn awarding roughly $1 million in contracts to book printers for each of the last three years.
During the 2007-2008 fiscal year, much of the grant money went toward a $930,000 contract to have 1.4 million books printed in Ghana, documents from CSU indicate. The books covered topics like math, reading and environmental studies.
“The idea is twofold,” CSU spokesman Brian Pitzer says. “One is to provide educational materials … for kindergartners through third-graders in Ghana, and also to provide a sustainability of printing in Ghana.”
Under the terms of the grant CSU got from USAID, the book printing had to be completed in Ghana, Pitzer says.
CSU got bids from 11 Ghanaian print shops, with Buck Press Limited being the lowest of four bidders that met all of the contract’s requirements.
In May, the Illinois Auditor General singled out the book-printing grant from the previous year because it hadn’t been signed by the university’s legal counsel, as required by state rules.
“We make sure that we speak with (USAID) and give them as much information as far as what happened if a particular policy or procedure wasn’t followed,” says Imara Dawson, the project coordinator for CSU’s international programs.
Adama Conteh, the director of CSU’s international programs, says the school has made changes to ensure contracts are handled correctly in the future.
“We put something structural in place where in any contract we double-check before it’s sent anywhere to be sure it is signed,” Conteh says.
Professors at CSU worked with officials in Ghana to refine the content of the books as part of the program.
While most of the money CSU got for the project was spent in Ghana, a handful of students had a role, Dawson says.
“We have a field office in Ghana, so we would actually have some students down there spend some time teaching in the classroom and also working in the office,” Dawson says.
In total, about seven CSU students worked on the project in Ghana as part of the school’s study abroad program over the last three years.
“We would definitely like to get more students involved in the program, and if we do receive more funding, that is something we have talked about,” Dawson says.
Daily News Staff Writer Peter Sachs covers higher education. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 18, or peter [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.