ST GEORGE’S, Grenada (GIS) — Financial irregularities have been uncovered in the Grenada government school books programme and the administration now says it’s time for a revamp.
A government audit has reported that user fees collected from students have not been deposited into the treasury.
The audit report says in excess of $100,000 still remains outstanding and that receipt books have been discarded.
|Education Minister Anthony Boatswain|
“Based on an audit that was undertaken by the department of audit, information coming to light would reveal that there was serious financial irregularities in the operation of the programme,” Education Minister Anthony Boatswain announced during a post cabinet news briefing on Tuesday.
“The funds that were supposed to have been collected from the students in the various schools and turned into the treasury, in 90 percent of the cases, were never turned into the treasury. As it stands now, in excess of 100,000 dollars is still outstanding out there… the audit report has revealed that financial rules were not adhered to,” Boatswain said.
The audit report said financial rules have not been adhered to and that further investigations were taking place into the operations of the school books programme.
The government said a revamp of the school books programme would include putting measures in place to ensure proper accounting procedures are met.
“What we intend to do in going forward is restructure the school books programme, so I can tell you from now that it will not be business as usual,” Boatswain said. “We will not go down the same route as the previous administration did.”
The previous administration spent $13.6 million on books between 2008-2011.
Suppliers are owed close to $1.5 million for thousands of books, many of which were not used.
“The audit report has recommended that we should really call in the police or the FIU to further investigate what has happened with the programme but we do not intend to go down that route at this point to call in the FIU to investigate,” said the education minister.
“We do believe it was not the intention of those involved at the school level and the ministry level to engage in fraud but really poor administration and I believe the blame must rest with the overall administration of the programme,” he added.
The audit report revealed that different aspects of the programme were not working together; schools were ordering books in excess of their requirements as well as books not relevant to the subjects.
“In these difficult financial times I do not understand why measures were not put in place by the past administration to ensure that such wastage was eliminated, and we now have to pay the price because we have to find the resource to pay for things that were not used,” said the education minister.
“We have to correct these deficiencies while we set the stage for the introduction of eBooks because this is the way forward,” he said.
Originally, the school book and uniform programme was designed to provide financial assistance to parents that were in need.
The focus was on the poor and disadvantaged and schools were only asked to pay a sum of $75 to rent the books for the year. The previous government discontinued the uniform programme and expanded the school book programme, making it open to everyone; even private schools. Schools were asked to pay a sum of $25 service fees.
“We will be putting structures in place to ensure that while the programme continues there will be proper accounting procedures,” Boatswain said.
“We will also put in place structures to ensure that only the required number of books will be ordered and there will be one authority responsible,” he said.
Boatswain also said school principals will no longer be able to place orders for books without consulting with the permanent secretary in the ministry of education.