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JET demands retraction from NRCA

Friday, June 22, 2018

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THE Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), implementing agency of the Schools' Environment Programme (SEP), is demanding that the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) retract statements it made calling the effectiveness of the 20-year-old programme into question.

Wednesday's Jamaica Observer carried a story headlined 'NRCA pulls out of Schools' Environment Programme', in which NRCA Chairman Danville Walker said the reason the authority has decided to withdraw its annual $9 million from the programme is that there is no evidence it was getting value for money.

“Members of the board felt that the money could be better used for public education and weren't really happy with the job that JET was doing in terms of public education. A number of us felt that it warrants a review... The question was, 'Would we have a wider reach if we were to focus it in a more traditional way of public education, rather than just schools?' and that's what we're debating,” Walker said in that story.

But in a statement issued to the media Wednesday, JET said it rejected Walker's comments and provided a letter addressed to him and dated April 16, in which it asked that the authority clarify the dates of its withdrawal and give reasons for the decision. Walker confirmed yesterday that he did receive the letter.

However, JET said it received no response.

The NGO, which is headed by Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Stanley, also asserted that it has fulfilled all its contractual obligations under the partnership, “including successful delivery of all SEP components (workshops, school supervision visits, educational materials, and awards) and all quarterly reports”.

What's more, according to JET, representatives of either National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), which administers the NRCA grant, or the NRCA itself have attended previous stagings of the annual SEP awards, “including NEPA CEO Peter Knight and Mr Walker in 2016”, and have publicly commended the programme.

This year, NEPA's Anthony McKenzie, director of environmental Management and Conservation Division, represented the agencies. He did congratulate both JET and the SEP schools for their work, calling the students' efforts “heart-warming”.

“From the point of NEPA, we consider this programme so important,” McKenzie said on Monday.

McKenzie added that while the NRCA would not be able to provide the “full support”, NEPA “still will be able to collaborate in ensuring that [the] programme does not end”.

He declined elaborating, instead directing the Observer to Walker or Knight.

“There has never been any indication from NRCA or NEPA that they were dissatisfied with the job that JET was doing delivering SEP, which was reaffirmed by their continued funding of the project over the last six years,” JET said in its statement Wednesday.

“JET calls on the NRCA to clarify its position on SEP and retract its statement regarding the project's performance,” it said further.

The statement also said that JET met with NEPA in 2016 to discuss ways in which the programme could be expanded beyond its current reach on the same budget.

“Both parties agreed that NEPA would facilitate delivering SEP in more schools by engaging its staff to conduct school supervision visits in 12 schools in the 2016/7 academic year. NEPA did not meet all its obligations under that arrangement and the approach was scrapped in the 2017/8 school year,” said JET.

SEP was implemented in 39 schools across the country in the 2017/18 academic year.

— Kimone Thompson

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