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NIA calls $124M loss at MOE outrageous

Published:Wednesday | October 13, 2021 | 3:17 PM
A report by Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis tabled in Parliament yesterday found that the Ministry of Education was unable to account for how $124 million were spent by the Joint Committee on Tertiary Education - File photo.

The National Integrity Action (NIA) says the revelation surrounding the payment of $124 million by the Ministry of Education to the Joint Committee on Tertiary Education (JCTE) highlights yet another outrageous case of lawless spending of taxpayers' money.

A report by Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis tabled in Parliament yesterday found that the Ministry was unable to account for how the sums were spent by the Cecil Cornwall-chaired JCTE.

READ: Minister urged to call in cops as Bernard, McLean under scrutiny for $124m spend

For that reason, Monroe Ellis has recommended that Portfolio Minister Fayval Williams ask the police or an anti-corruption agency to further investigate the matter.

In a special probe into the JCTE, the auditor general also recommended that the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service institute surcharge action against Dean-Roy Bernard, the in-limbo permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, and Dr Grace McLean, acting permanent secretary, on the basis that both officers failed in their fiduciary duty.

Word came today that McLean has been sent on leave.

The NIA highlights that the JCTE development came on the heels of other recent damning disclosures of irregularities at the Nutrition Products Limited and the Airports Authority of Jamaica.

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The anti-corruption lobby group expressed concern that no action has been taken arising from the conduct of persons connected to these issues.

It argues that it is high time that lawbreakers in high places in ministries, departments and agencies pay the full price for improperly spending taxpayers' money or enriching themselves at public expense.

NIA insists that:

In the case of the Joint Committee for Tertiary Education, those responsible for wrongfully giving the JCTE $124 million of taxpayers' money should pay back every single cent in implementation of the Auditor General's recommendation and in accordance with Section 20 of the Financial Administration & Audit Act.

It is absolutely scandalous and completely unacceptable that with all the disclosures of improper spending of billions of taxpayers' money by officials, not one responsible officer has been surcharged and required to pay back money spent in breach of law between 2015 and 2020 (as disclosed to the Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal (JAMP) in response to an ATI request).

2. Persons serving on the boards of the AAJ and the NPL during the commission of these irregularities be immediately dismissed from their position by the respective responsible ministers.

3. The Minister of Finance immediately bring back to the House for the Parliament to promptly approve long-pending regulations that would reduce cronyism and nepotism in appointments to the boards of public bodies.

NIA also supports the recommendation by the AuGD that the appropriate anti-corruption agencies further investigate the $124 million improper payment to the JCTE.

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