The possibility of payment being made in cash to teachers in areas such as the Berbice River is
not unlikely and therefore could be conducive to activities of a criminal nature. Former Chief Education Officer, Mr Ed Caesar, who was given the task to head a Commission of Inquiry [COI] into the education system, in an invited comment to this publication yesterday, “This is the Berbice River we are talking about…As far as I am aware [teachers] are paid in cash.”
A day earlier Caesar handed over a preliminary report of the COI to Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine during which he made some very revealing disclosures about the education system.
Several issues of financial mismanagement were found during the Commission’s sojourn in the Berbice River. Caesar said, “We have seen pay sheets with names of teachers who, as far as the head teachers are concerned, don’t exist. We are seeing ghost teachers so to speak…and recently one of the schools called and said to us another name has been added,” said Mr. Caesar of a school’s payroll.
“We have seen the name of a person being transferred from a school that doesn’t exist to another school. So financial management has to be addressed, and be addressed seriously, or else we will have other kinds of issues.”
Moreover, a recommendation coming out of the COI, Caesar said, “is that departments of education must monitor things like that; departments must know who are the persons on the Ministry or departments’ payrolls.”
He continued, “Our education department must keep themselves abreast of how finances are used; how grants are utilised. It is very important that they go down that road.”
When asked if the Commission would have been able to uncover what had become of the money paid to ghost teachers, Caesar’s response was, “I don’t know.”
He, however, considered that there are a number of things that could have been happening, including the possibility that teachers are employed but are not sent to the schools where their names are recorded.
He said that the possibility exists that “these names [ghost teachers] could have just appeared on the payroll or pay sheet of schools and the schools were not made aware that these teachers even exist…”
But according to Caesar, the head teachers of all schools should always be aware of each person on their payroll. “When a head teacher signs that pay sheet she is really saying these are my teachers and I have paid them. When she signs the pay sheet and these names are on there, she has to be careful,” asserted Caesar.
Given the various considerations that could have resulted in the presence of ghost teachers in the system, Caesar emphasised that there is dire need for the education departments to take action.
“They have to look into the matter carefully and see where the deficiencies are and have them corrected. This thing has to be looked at very carefully. Let us say the names are there and monies are collected and these people are not working anywhere that is another indictment,” noted the COI Chairman.
According to him, each education department ought to have a comprehensive list of all teachers and all the schools in the system. “I don’t know where the money is going; I don’t know if the people are somewhere else…The only way we can know is if a proper investigation is done. It has to be investigated…
“We are speaking about hard earned dollars; we are speaking about service…If people are employed and they are giving service somewhere else the head teacher must know; it is a responsibility of the head teacher you can’t keep the head teacher in the dark,” ,” asserted Caesar.
In the case of the irregularities, Caesar is convinced that the regional officer[s] responsible for the region should be given a chance to bring clarity to the situation. Even as he emphasised this, he did note that there has been a clear indication that efforts are being made to improve the education system, particularly in the Berbice River.
Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, upon learning of the situation of the ghost teachers in the system on Friday said, “It is high fraud and it should be dealt with. I think it is beyond the powers of the Ministry of Education and it is something that requires the attention of the people who are trained to investigate.”
But Technical Adviser to the Minister, Mr. Vincent Alexander, asserted that “the approach the Ministry will take is the approach Mr. Caesar spoke to. The Ministry will ask the departments to investigate and give us the specifics…We cannot make a commitment or take further action without specific information.”
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