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PAAC wants to question officials of education ministry

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PAAC wants to question officials of education ministry

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

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OFFICIALS of the Ministry of Education will be asked to appear before the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament to give an account of the ministry’s operations.

The decision was taken at yesterday’s meeting of the PAAC, in light of the ballooning corruption scandal facing the ministry, its former minister, and several of its agencies.

“I know there are issues that are being looked at the Ministry of Education with law enforcement agencies,” said PAAC chairman Dr Wykeham McNeill. But he said that with all the things that are happening it is the duty of the committee to determine whether or not there are systemic inefficiencies and faults in the systems of the Ministry of Education.

The PAAC has also indicated that it will ask the Ministry of Finance to submit a new list of consultants and advisers employed to the education ministry. This is necessary, the chairman noted, given the discussions now in the public domain about the circumstances under which consultants were hired to the ministry.

“A year ago we had asked the Ministry of Finance to furnish us with a list of consultants and we had gotten that list; I’m hearing of consultants (now) that may have been hired to the Ministry of Education [but] the report we got initially had one consultant. The minister sent back and said there were two other consultants, and named those two other consultants,” said the PAAC chairman.

“… Maybe it fell through the cracks because some of these consultants may have been hired after, or it may be that we are only getting persons who are directly contracted under the auspices of the minister, however there may be other consultants hired in different capacities that we do not know about,” he said. The finance ministry, he added, should now provide a new, complete list of consultants.

St Catherine South Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson, meanwhile, questioned the manner in which the information had been provided to the committee in the first instance.

“We got one initially, then two [and] several little drips (of information). To deny the information to the committee is to deny the information to the public. Secondly, in the communication to the ministry it must be emphasised that this bit of information is not just for the ministry but all entities that fall under the jurisdiction of the ministry,” Jackson insisted.

Financial Secretary Darlene Morrison noted that the appointment of consultants is not sanctioned by Cabinet

The Caribbean Maritime University, the National Education Trust, and the HEART Trust/NTA, all of which fall under the education ministry, have been implicated in the corruption scandal, which led to the forced resignation of its minister, Ruel Reid, last week. Reid also resigned from the Senate.

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