AGD Highlights $124M Loss of Government Funds

Following the a damning report from the Auditor General, Pamela Monroe Ellis, tabled in parliament on Tuesday, October 12, revealed a loss of Government funds amounting to 124 million dollars; the funds were transferred to the Joint Committee for Tertiary Education (JCTE); Chief Inspector in the National Education Inspectorate, Mrs. Maureen Dwyer will assume responsibilities as acting Permanent Secretary. This as Dr. Grace Mclean proceeds on leave effective tomorrow, October 14.

The special audit of the Joint Committee for Tertiary Education (JCTE) began in December 2019, after an audit of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) identified a possible conflict of interest between the committee and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis says since being established as a special advisory committee in 1991, or the time of receiving government funding, there has been no evidence that any Minister has been involved in the appointment of committee members or that there has been any government oversight of its operations.

She further notes that in January 2017, at the request of the JCTE’s leadership, the Permanent Secretary wrote to the Commissioner General of Tax Administration of Jamaica, requesting a Taxpayer Registration Number, (TRN) for the committee. This she says enabled the transfer of government funds totaling over $217 million from both heart trust and the Education Ministry directly to JCTE.

Additionally, the Auditor General notes that her office saw no evidence that the Permanent Secretary sought approval from the Ministry of Finance to provide the JCTE with a TRN. The MOE also transferred approximately $124 million to the JCTE over the period April 2017 to June 2020. But, to date, the Ministry has not been able to account for the utilization of the funds.

The Auditor General says the JCTE chairman has remained steadfast in his refusal to provide her or the MOE with the requested information, stating that the committee had become a private entity which he registered in February 2019 under the name JCTE limited. He argues that the Auditor General has no legal authority to review its accounting records.

Monroe Ellis says in a meeting at her department in January 2020, acting Permanent Secretary, Dr. Grace Mclean suggested she had no knowledge of the chairman forming a private entity and indicated that the ministry would stop doing business with the JCTE. She further notes having purportedly learned of the privatized company, Dr. Mclean still allowed transfers to the JCTE amounting to $11.2 million between April and June 2020.

The Auditor General is calling for surcharge action against the two senior officers of the MOE for the transfer of the $124 million to the JCTE. She is also urging Education Minister, Fayval Williams to refer the matter of the loss of Government funds to the Jamaica Constabulary Force, (JCF) or an anti-corruption agency for further investigation.

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