Angry teachers question JTA's $52M fraud
Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
OCHO RIOS, St Ann:
ANGRY TEACHERS vehemently demanded of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), on Monday in Ocho Rios, an explanation as to how their union executive sat back and allowed $52 million to be defrauded from the organisation over the course of the last financial year, ending April 2013.
The teachers' ire directed at the JTA executive, was the highpoint of the opening day of the 49th annual general meeting at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort in Ocho Rios, St Ann.
The fraud was discovered after an external audit was carried out.
Tempers flared as teachers threw question after question at the executive seated at the head table, without getting satisfactory answers, with outgoing president Clayton Hall and Secretary General Dr Adolph Cameron fielding the brunt of the questions.
The situation was compounded when audited financial statements done by BDO were presented to the delegates without the requisite signatures.
"In order for it to be authenticated, I would have preferred it signed," president-elect Doran Dixon said, speaking from the floor.
Even when Hall presented the original document, which he said had the signatures, and which he was willing to display, the delegates continued to view the document before them with scepticism, one even suggesting there were attempts at a cover-up.
Cameron suggested that somewhere between the original document and the printers, the signatures were inadvertently obliterated.
"There was a breakdown between the signing and the printing," Hall added.
The teacher delegates were further dismayed when it was revealed that the extent of the fraud could, in fact, reach $112 million, as the auditor's report showed that amount in difference between it and the organisation's financial statements.
According to the JTA financial statements, the organisation made a surplus of $72 million for the period. However, the auditor's report reflected a deficit of $40 million.
"How come we don't hear of anybody being fired or anybody resigning?" one delegate questioned. Another suggested that persons be jailed for the fraud.
And the questions kept coming.
The conference was told that it was the authorisation signature that was forged, not the signatures on the cheques.
Dixon suggested there was no system in place to protect against such an occurrence.
"It would appear that the shop had no door, it had no window or even walls," he suggested. He was adamant that somebody be held accountable.
"We need desperately for somebody to tell us how it happened. Is it complicity or negligence? In either case, somebody must take responsibility," Dixon said.
Beverly McKenzie, a teacher from Clarendon, said "The face of the JTA has been disfigured by the current set of events" and questioned how the administration would go about reassuring delegates of transparency in the future. She was firm as she called for action.