Call in the anti-corruption investigators!

That’s the recommendation of the Auditor General to Minister of Education, Fayval Williams.

The Auditor General wants the investigators to probe how the Joint Committee for Tertiary Education, JCTE, spent nearly $124 million received from the Ministry between 2018 and 2020.

This was revealed in a damning Special Audit Report tabled in the House of Representatives this afternoon.

The report found that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education in 2017, Deanroy Bernard, allowed the JCTE to be granted a Tax Registration Number enabling the transfer of over $200 million without approval from the Ministry of Finance.

Chevon Campbell has been reading the report and tells us more.

Another scandal has erupted at the Education Ministry.

The JCTE was established by the Minister of Education as a special advisory committee in 1991.

Auditor General Pamela Munroe Ellis noted that at no point since receiving government funding has any Minister been involved in the appointment of committee members or that there has been any government oversight of its operations.

Further, in January 2017, at the request of the JCTE’s leadership, the Permanent Secretary
wrote the Commissioner General of Tax Administration of Jamaica, requesting a TRN for the entity

This enabled the transfer of funds totaling over $217 million from both the HEART Trust and the MOE directly.

The Auditor General says despite the Permanent Secretary’s fiduciary responsibilities, the MoE
transferred funds to JCTE without identifying an accountable officer, in contravention of Financial Management Regulation.

Further, the Auditor General says her office found no evidence that the Permanent Secretary sought approval from the Ministry of Finance to provide the JCTE with a TRN or that said ministry was consulted.

The MOE also transferred $124 million to the JCTE over a 32-month period.

But, to date, the Ministry has not been able to account for the utilisation of the funds.

She says whereas the MOE provided evidence of the transfers, the JCTE has not provided any supporting invoices to allow for a determination of how this money was utilised.

The Auditor General further notes that the Chairman has remained steadfast in his refusal to provide her or the MoE with the requested information.

Mrs. Munroe Ellis says the Chairman of JCTE in seeking to justify his refusal stated that JCTE 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.

Nonetheless, the Auditor General found that between February 2019 and June 2020, MOE transferred sums totaling approximately $78 million to the JCTE using the TRN that was issued in 2017.

The Auditor General says on this basis, all sums transferred using that TRN must be accounted for by the MOE and JCTE.

It’s noted that the current Acting Permanent Secretary in a meeting held at the Auditor General’s Department in January 2020, suggested that she had no knowledge that the Chairman had formed a private entity.

It’s further noted that despite having purportedly learned in January 2020 from the Chairman that he registered a company with the name JCTE Limited, and was now imposing this company on the Government and refusing to account for Government funds received, the Acting Permanent Secretary still allowed transfers to the JCTE amounting to $11.2 million between April and June 2020.

The Auditor General is calling on the $124 million transferred to JCTE over the period March 2018 to June 2020, be surcharged to two senior officers of the MoE who enabled the transfer.

Mrs. Munroe Ellis is also calling for Minister Fayval Williams to refer this matter to the JCF or an anti-corruption agency for further investigation.

The Auditor General became aware of the activities of JCTE through its audit of the Caribbean Maritime

It was found that the Chairman of JCTE had funded a party for the Permanent Secretary in 2017, the same year that the MoEYI made the decision to facilitate JCTE being assigned a TRN.

The Permanent Secretary at the time was Dean Roy Bernard while Current Acting Permanent Secretary Dr. Grace McLean was the Chief Education Officer.