Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
Dr Franklin Johnston, a senior adviser to Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, has vowed to eliminate waste at the ministry, which is allocated a major chunk of the country's Budget each year.
With numerous questions being asked about his almost $6-million salary, Johnston, in a backhanded defence of his pay package, last week told The Sunday Gleaner that he has been contracted to tackle the waste that has become ingrained in the ministry.
"Everything which does not work well is to be made to work well or abandoned, and everything that works well is to be improved," he said, noting that his focus is on the corporate side of the education ministry.
According to Johnston, a manage-ment consultant, if the education ministry is to perform at the zenith of its potential, it must find and trim the fat.
"In any large unreconstructed entity, there is some seven per cent to 12 per cent fat," Johnston said in a written response to questions from The Sunday Gleaner.OVERHAULING SYSTEM
He declared that Jamaica's education system can be overhauled by engineering afresh the overall architecture, while maintaining the symmetry from early-childhood institution to adult education.
"Balance resource allocation to favour the early-childhood institutions as the priority. Offload student loans on the banking system with some prospect of a small subsidy," said Johnston.
He argued that there must be "zero tolerance on overruns on contracts, teaching days and contact hours, absenteeism by teachers and students, disrespect and antisocial behaviour, poor school management and performance (and) parental indifference".
Johnston was scathing in his critique of the current state of affairs at the Ministry of Education and suggested that he will be working with Thwaites to shake up its modus operandi.
The senior adviser, who has worked in consultancy roles locally and overseas, declared that his core function requires that he boldly goes where no education official in Jamaica has ever gone.
"(My) missive deals mainly with the corporate issues of the Ministry of Education as a local mega-corporation, and not the core issues of teaching and learning in schools, which is where the rubber hits the road," explained Johnston.
"This is a facet of education which none dared tread; in fact, the expertise does not reside in the ministry."
The senior adviser said he was doubtful whether any previous education minister explored or analysed the effectiveness of the several facets on the corporate side of the ministry.
These facets, Johnston said, include comparing ratios of efficiency; use of resources, systems, processes; and the delivery of both 'soft' and 'hard' projects.
He added that issues such as value added and created; the savings which might accrue, efficiency reaped; the cost and causes of failure, the price of success and the several options for doing things better are also in his mandate.
He declared that this is new for the education ministry despite it being a standard role for the minister, who acts as the CEO and reports to the Cabinet.
"The surprise which greeted the request for the accounts and statements so the new minister could apprise himself of the state of the entities under his watch was palpable," Johnston said in referring to Thwaites, who was appointed to the position in January.
Johnston claimed that an employee of the ministry observed that the request for accounts and statements was unusual.
"[It is] mind-blowing that a minister would not want to analyse the financial statements of his new portfolio, and do so with some alacrity and frequency."
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