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JTA hires forensic auditors

Published: Sunday January 5, 2014 | 6:23 pm Comments 0

The Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) says it has engaged the services of Pricewaterhousecoopers to conduct a five-year forensic audit following a series of fraudulent activities in 2013.

Last August, financial auditors discovered that J$58 million was missing from the coffers of the union, but investigators believed the fraud could have been widespread. Marlon Francis, who was employed to JTA's accounts department, was named as a person of interest, but he has not yet been found.

In a national address this afternoon to mark the beginning of the Easter term for schools across the island, JTA president Dr Mark Nicely, said the Pricewaterhousecoopers audit is being done on a phased basis. The first report is expected at the end of March.

He added that the law firm, Grant, Stewart, Phillips and Company has also been retained to represent the JTA in the case. The firm's managing partner is Queen's Counsel, Denise E. Kitson, who is representing the JTA in the matter, while former senior deputy director of public prosecutions, Caroline Hay, who is a consultant to the firm, is the other attorney representing the JTA.

Dr Nicely said many measures and systems have been implemented to tighten control and improve financial management of the organisation. He said the JTA has been making great progress since implementing some of the measures. He said his administration would not be leaving any "stone unturned" in its efforts to remedy the situation.

Dr Nicely said the JTA has established committees to review teachers responses to the draft Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) Bill and the white paper on Pension Reform.

Although a time line was not announced, Dr Nicely said the committees would craft a universal response once they have completed their reviews of both pieces of legislation.

In several meetings held across the island by the JTA last year, teachers voiced their dissatisfaction with the JTC Bill. They were especially peeved by sections of the bill granting disciplinary powers to the Council to suspend or revoke teaching licences. The Council would also be able to, among other measures, at any time, suspend teachers without an inquiry if they are charged with an offence.

Dr Nicely had said it would be unfair for teachers to lose their licences without having an appropriate hearing with their chosen representative. He had also said teachers should never be dismissed without having a chance to present their case to the disciplinary committee of the JTC.

However, the JTA seems to be pleased with the tabling of the white paper on pension reform. In his national address this afternoon, Dr. Nicely commended Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance, Horace Dalley for what he described as a proactive approach towards the implementation of the law.

Pension reform is expected to be enacted by April 2016.

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