Brown-Burke calls for independent financial audit of all Ministry of Education institutionsThursday, September 23, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Opposition Spokesperson on Education and Training, Dr Angela Brown-Burke is calling for an independent financial audit of all the institutions that are managed by the Ministry of Education.
According to Brown-Burke, the independent financial audit would provide a better understanding of what happens at these institutions, claiming that there have been several irregularities discovered at the ministry in recent years.
“I want to call on a real independent investigation/ financial audit of all of the institutions that fall under the Ministry of Education. We saw from the former Minister of Education all that has happened under Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMU) and we come now and here we are with Nutrition Products Limited. We need to see if that is the full extent or if it extends also to other institutions,” Brown-Burke said.
A recent auditor general's report cited several cases of nepotism and alleged fraud at Nutrition Products Limited (NPL), which provides meals for children attending schools.
It is the latest in a series of impropriety that has been reported at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MEYI), with Minister Ruel Reid resigning in March 2019 after being fingered in fraudulent activities.
Reid and four others are currently before the courts.
The alleged fraud also involves the CMU, which falls under the MEYI.
According to Brown-Burke, the situation at NPL was highlighted in 2018 by Opposition Senator Lambert Brown, but the matter was dismissed at the time by Reid. She said the government should have been proactive from then.
Brown-Burke is of the view that Fayval Williams, who now has responsibility for that portfolio, should be held responsible for what was taking place at NPL.
“Today, we are now faced with a public discussion of the Auditor General's Report and a public outcry about what is happening there. So the minister coming and saying that they will complete their investigations and make the chips fall where they may, for me is not enough,” Brown-Burke said.
She stated that the MEYI should have had a representative on the board at NPL to ensure that the entity is being properly managed and to enure that taxpayers' money was being prudently spent.
“Bear in mind that one of the things that have come up now in terms of the pandemic is the nutrition of the children. Many of them are at home not getting that guaranteed nutritious meal per day that they would have gotten if they were going to school,” she said.
She continued: “And at a time when we have seen probably the lowest number of meals being made, is the highest amount that's being paid to those who are supposed to be doing it.
“The kids have definitely been robbed. It's almost like you give your children lunch money to go to school and the people who should be protecting them, thief out their lunch money. That's what it really kind of looks like, and I believe that it is totally unforgivable,” Brown-Burke said.