…Regional officials now get involved
There are questions now over the controls at the regional levels when it comes to the monitoring of teachers.
In recent years, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has been raising questions with overpayments to not only contractors, but also staffers within the state ministries and agencies.
In many cases, the contractors were paid off and the works signed off.
However, checks by state auditors found that various aspects of the job were incomplete and therefore the contractor would have been overpaid.
In the case of staffers, auditors were finding cases where persons would have left the jobs but were being paid months later.
In many cases, the accounting officer – the Permanent Secretaries and the Regional Executive Officers (REOs)– would be hard-pressed to explain their efforts to recover the monies.
Year after year, the queries would come when the accounting officers appear before Parliamentarians to answer the red flags raised in the annual reports of the Auditor General.
A recent case is now raising serious concerns.
A Temporarily Unqualified Mistress was hired by the Ministry of Education to teach at the Kuru Kururu Primary School, Soesdyke/Linden Highway, in 2015.
Her closed contract was up in July. Before that, the teacher had applied for a renewal of her contract from the Region Four administration.
Then she was offered a job in the media that same month. So that was the end of her teaching career.
The teacher thought the matter was over as she had submitted a letter of resignation to the school.
However, in late November, the troubles of the former teacher started.
She was called by the headmistress and told that she had been overpaid.
In fact, the headmistress said that over $300,000 had been credited to the former teacher’s bank account.
She was told to withdraw the money- all $303,000 of it- and hand it over to the headmistress immediately.
However, the former teacher became highly suspicious as the headmistress started to become aggressive, threatening to send education officials and the police to Kaieteur News where the former teacher is now working as a reporter.
The headmistress even made contact with the teen’s family who became worried and appealed to her to hand the cash over to the headmistress.
Contact was made with the Region Four administration where the Regional Executive Officer, Pauline Lucas, advised that the monies be handed over to the Triumph, East Coast Demerara office of the regional administration.
Lucas indicated that it is irregular that the former teacher did not receive a letter informing her that she had been overpaid.
The REO urged that the regional office handle the matter.
Over the weekend, the texts from the headmistress to the former teacher continued.
The former teacher visited the Triumph office this week where a regional education official said that indeed the overpayment was flagged at the regional level.
The official disclosed that the matter was flagged after accounts staffers noticed that the pay sheet for the Kuru- Kururu school had no signatures for several months for the former teacher as receiving her salary.
The regional administration contacted the headmistress last month querying the payment and making it clear that somebody had to pay.
However, interestingly, the region’s officials also said that it is strange that for consecutive months, the school did not notice that a staffer was being paid despite not being on the job.
Significantly, when the regional administration accounts department finished their calculations, the $303,000 had been reduced to just over $200,000 that was owed by the former teacher.
The difference represented an increase and other incentives paid to the former teacher.
It meant that the former teacher would have been none-the-wiser had she been forced to hand over the entire amount that was asked for.
The situation would not be dissimilar to what had transpired in the payment of Old Age pensions where millions of dollars were paid to ghost persons.
Auditors would have faced a tough time dealing with it with tens of millions believed stolen.
There are also cases in the regions where persons were hired to work as community workers but there are little records of them existing despite payments being recorded as being made.
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