In hopes of addressing financial irregularities that have been highlighted by the Auditor General, strategic measures have been put in place by the Regional Authority of Region Five. This is according to Regional Executive Officer [REO], Mr. Ovid Morrison.
According to Morrison, the Region, in the past, was answerable at the level of the Public Accounts Committee for sums of money that were overpaid. He explained that previous Auditor General Reports for instance highlighted that a large sum was overpaid by the Region. “I am talking about millions of dollars being overpaid as a result of teachers leaving the country under the pretext of vacation,” said Morrison.
Several of these teachers, Morrison added, never returned although they were in receipt of their salaries while abroad.
In order to counter this challenge, Morrison said that an informed decision was taken to enforce an existing regulation that addresses teachers opting to leave the jurisdiction.
“I have sought to bring into force the existing rule that if you are leaving the country you must deposit one month salary in lieu of the leave or one month salary will be held. If you write saying that you are leaving for vacation on July 1, your salary for the month of June will be held,” Morrison said.
He continued, “If you return you will have your salary for the month of June because you would have indicated that you are going. However if some teachers are interested in spending July and August abroad, I have nothing to do with that…All I have to do with is one month and that is the one month before your departure.”
But several teachers are contesting the move by the Region. According to several teachers who made contact with this publication, the Region has in fact been withholding three months salaries for teachers travelling overseas. Several of the teachers said that they were furnished with no memo informing them of the decision to hold their salary for the prolonged period. “This is unconscionable because some teachers are living pay cheque to pay cheque. Some teachers have mortgage and other debts to meet monthly even while they are away,” said a teacher who commented on the matter.
This publication understands that the teachers’ salaries are usually paid through the banking system.
However Morrison is adamant that the teachers are merely trying to make a case to gain sympathy. “There is another regulation, in place for teachers that has something else that is affecting them. When school is closed for July/August they are to remain for the first two weeks after school is closed and return two weeks before school reopens but some of them don’t want to adhere to that,” said Morrison.
He added, “They are supposed to give one month notice ahead of leaving but they have even been trying to trick it. They would say they are going on vacation in June but they wait at the end of May to inform you that they are going and they would have already collected their salary that is what they have been doing.”
When this publication sought to contact officials at both the Ministries of Education and Communities the common disclosure was that the concerns of the teachers had not yet been ventilated at the level of the Ministries.
The affected teachers have however already taken their concerns to the Guyana Teachers Union [GTU].
GTU President, Mr. Mark Lyte, when contacted yesterday, said that the union intends to make contact with the Ministry of Communities to determine whether rule enforced by the Region has been endorsed by the Ministry.
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