Sat | Oct 19, 2019

Where’s the cash? - Delay in CAP grant payments triggers anxiety as ministry fails to deliver on commitment

Published:Thursday | July 18, 2019 | 12:23 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter

Eight months since being formally advised via email from Campion College that her child was awarded a monetary grant through the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information’s Career Advancement Programme (CAP), a disgruntled parent yesterday said monies are yet to be paid.

The school’s bursary, which has been bombarded with calls for updates from parents, is having a hard time relating that there is no money to pay.

“As I have indicated to all the parents who have called [about CAP disbursements], we haven’t received any money from the Government as yet,” bursar Mitsy Mullings told The Gleaner yesterday.

A similar response caused one affected parent to reach out to our news team, lamenting her and her daughter’s disappointment at not receiving the funds.

She said that a November 2018 email had informed that her daughter would be receiving “a new subsidy for sixth-form students doing CAPE subject(s) recognised as a skill subsidy”.

CAPE – Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination – is the post-secondary education Caribbean Examinations Council-administered tests for students wishing to pursue further studies prior to enrolling in tertiary institutions.

The Gleaner understands that the package would have included payment for the related subject(s) with $40,000 going towards tuition.

“Before I got the email, they also told the students, and she came home saying, ‘Mommy, you heard the good news?’ She is now going to start university and still no money. The school said whenever they get the money, they would pay it over to her present institution, but eight months and still no money. What is the message we are sending to the future leaders when we hear all that is going on with the ministry?” the parent asked.

The Financial Investigations Division of the Ministry of Finance is leading a multi-agency investigation into allegations of impropriety at the Ministry of Education and several agencies that fall under its remit.

“The school advised me and other parents that if the tuition was already paid, we would get the money back. Up to today, Campion has not received any disbursement from the MOE (Ministry of Education) so they can’t give what they don’t have,” the parent added.

The Gleaner has learnt that the situation is also a cause for concern at other institutions still awaiting the disbursement. Some parents who had received confirmation of the grant were holding out on paying the fees, but had to fork up tuition payments to avoid embarrassment as their children would have been barred from graduation.

The Gleaner yesterday tried to get Colin Steer, director of corporate communications in the Ministry of Education, to shed light on the CAP situation. However, up to press time, we had not received a response.

CAP, which was started in 2010, provides technical, vocational and educational training and certification for young people, ages 16 to 18, who have completed secondary studies.

Another aspect of the programme has been shrouded in controversy since allegations of misuse of funds hit the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), which spearheads the Career Advancement Programme-Youth Empowerment Solution (CAP-YES) project.

At a press conference on Tuesday, opposition spokesman on education, Ronald Thwaites, bemoaned the range of controversies now dogging the education ministry, calling for immediate action to address the issues and restore calm to the sector.

“What is going on at the ministry, what is not being done by the PM and the Government in this regard, is a body blow. It is a haemorrhaging of the best aspirations of our people,” he said.

Public Administration and Appropriations Committee member Mikael Phillips went further, calling on the auditor general to do a forensic investigation on the CAP-YES programme.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com