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Opposition urges auditor general to probe education ministry

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Opposition has called on the auditor general to investigate allegations of nepotism and cronyism at the Ministry of Education in relation to transactions involving two major institutions and a number of programmes administered by the ministry.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips raised the concerns at a post-budget press conference at the People's National Party headquarters in Kingston yesterday.

“I want to sound a note of caution; we are very concerned about the reports that we are receiving about transactions being undertaken in the Ministry of Education. We have information regarding the same set of issues of cronyism, nepotism, and corruption which were manifest spectacularly in the Petrojam scandal, being also present in the Ministry of Education,” he stated,

According to Dr Phillips, the allegations involve the Caribbean Maritime University and how funds from the Heart Trust sent to the ministry for the Career Advancement Programme and the TVET rationalisation programme are being utilised.

“We are aware that politically connected persons have been employed as advisors but are not doing any work (and) are not operational. This is a waste of taxpayers' money and it must stop. We're therefore calling on the auditor general to use her good office to investigate all these agencies which have been involved in these questionable transactions and report to the Parliament and the Jamaican people and expose those who are misusing public funds,” he said.

He also criticised what he said was the scant attention to education in the 2019/20 budget, as one of the sectors where inequality is most apparent.

The Ministry of Education has received $109.4 billion, the second largest allocation in the Government's $803 billion national budget, but the opposition leader reasoned that: “We have a veritable apartheid system in education — a small set of schools performing at high levels and a large number of schools performing at substandard levels, yet in this budget education has received no real increase. When you take account of inflation, the education budget is flat.”

The Jamaica Observer was unable to reach Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid for comment on the allegations.

Phillips also reiterated his call for the Government to expand its $14-billion tax giveback initiative to include ordinary Jamaicans. He said it is not too late to enable those who bore the brunt of the sacrifice when the economic adjustment started in 2013, to benefit.