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Education ministry still to recover $26m in overpayments since 2011

Friday, June 15, 2018

THE education ministry is yet to recover $26.1 million in overpayments made to teachers under the Government's Early Childhood Development Project, some owing from as far back as 2011. The amount for the 2016/17 fiscal year is $2.1 million.

It addition there is approximately $15 million classified as “unidentified deposits” which is still owing to the ministry, according to an audit done by the Auditor General's Department (AGD) of the early childhood project — a loan agreement between the Jamaican Government and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

On Monday this week the Jamaica Observer carried the story of a primary school teacher who said she was only recently notified that she was being overpaid a total of $150,000 since 2011 and that the sum will be recovered in 10 months — from June of this year to March 2019.

The ministry's permanent secretary, Dean-Roy Bernard, told the Observer on Wednesday that the ministry was in the process of recovering portions of the sums.

“There's a compliance director in place. There's a compliance system that looks at those matters and the system is in place towards clearing them. I can't tell you the status of clearance now, but there's an exercise that is in place where those matters are being addressed. However, they're not addressed one time because you'd appreciate that they involve the same kind of discussions, and the putting in of the systems, that we'd need to do the work,” said Bernard.

“I was director of compliance before I became permanent secretary. So I would have been overseeing those matters, putting the systems in place to stop the recurrence and also to reach out to the various factors that would have caused overpayments. You will see the big figure, but the causes are varied and you have to treat with the causes,” he said.

According to the AGD's audit, some of the money was in subsidies to practitioners who separated from early childhood institutions due to the non-communication of separations in a timely manner. In other words, the Government was paying early childhood practitioners who no longer worked for the Government.

Additionally, the AGD said management at the ministry did not provide evidence that they assessed the collectability of the amounts in keeping with the accounting standards and Ministry of Finance circular concerning the write-off of losses.

According to the AGD, it was told that the $15 million in unidentified deposits might be related to the stipend paid to practitioners who separated from the early childhood institutions. However, the AGD said that the ministry did not provide pertinent documentation to support this assertion. Consequently, this limited verification of the deposits, the auditor general noted.