Fri | Mar 31, 2023

McLean retains Champagnie in surcharge dispute 

Published:Saturday | January 8, 2022 | 2:49 PMBarbara Gayle - Contributor
Acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Dr Grace McLean (file).
Attorney-at-Law, Peter Champagnie (file).

Sidelined acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Dr Grace McLean has retained Queen's Counsel Peter Champagnie in relation to the disputed surcharge notice involving $124 million.

When contacted, Champagnie said that he has written to the Ministry of Finance on her behalf detailing why there should be no surcharge.

Champagnie said further that he wrote in response to a request from the Ministry of Finance for McLean to provide a response by way of a defence in relation to a recommendation that a surcharge should be imposed on her.

“We are awaiting a response,” Champagnie said.

“I emphatically state that, on her instructions, she has not acted in any manner that would warrant that kind of consideration,” Champagnie asserted.

The Ministry of Education had reported this week that surcharge proceedings had been instituted against in-limbo permanent secretary in the Education Ministry Dean-Roy Bernard and McLean following revelations that the ministry was not able to account for $124 million of taxpayers' money.

However, the finance ministry contradicted the claim saying no such action had been taken and advised that it is currently in the process of gathering information.

The funds were paid to the Cecil Cornwall-chaired Joint Committee on Tertiary Education over a 32-month period. 

The funds have not been recovered.

McLean was sent on paid leave in October last year. 

Bernard was transferred from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Finance in February 2019 as director-general.

He took the issue to the Supreme Court seeking judicial review to quash the transfer. 

The attorney-general applied to strike out the claim, but Justice Grace Henry-McKenzie refused to grant the application. 

The attorney-general and the Public Service Commission appealed, however, in October 2020, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. 

Bernard's case is now set for hearing from January 17 to 19 in the Supreme Court.

Auditor-General Pamela Munroe Ellis had recommended in October last year that the Ministry of Finance should take surcharge action against Bernard and McLean, because they had failed in their fiduciary responsibilities. 

They have both denied the accusations.

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Editor's note: An earlier version of this story suggested that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information had stated that a surcharge had been instituted. However, the ministry had in fact said that surcharge action had been taken.