Financial Secretary Darlene Morrison has said that investigation in the Joint Committee for Tertiary Education (JCTE) case involving interdicted former acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education Dr Grace McLean and Dean-Roy Bernard, the former permanent secretary, is not yet completed. As such, surcharge has not been imposed on the public officers.
She said that surcharge procedures, as stipulated by the applicable legislation, have started in relation to both officers.
In a special audit report of the JCTE, Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis had recommended in October 2021 that the financial secretary consider surcharge action against the two senior officers of the education ministry for the disbursement of $124 million that could not be accounted for and called for a police investigation.
A surcharge is a provision of the Financial Administration and Audit Act, which allows for the recovery of monies lost or the value of the loss of property or other assets that have been destroyed or stolen because of negligence on the part of public officers. The legislation provides a three-year window for the sums to be recovered after being spent.
Responding to The Gleaner’s queries on the issue, Morrison pointed out that the Financial Management Regulation 111(7) provides that the financial secretary may, in exercising the functions of surcharge prescribed by the law, appoint a committee of not fewer than three persons, one of whom shall be appointed by the attorney general, to investigative the circumstances of the surcharge case and to submit recommendations to her.
She told The Gleaner that such a committee has been established and is operational.
The committee is chaired by a senior officer of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service and comprises representatives from the Attorney General’s Chambers, the Office of the Services Commission, the Financial Investigation Division, and the Public Expenditure Policy Coordination Division in the ministry.
The Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) searched the premises of McLean two weeks ago as part of the ongoing probe into alleged impropriety involving the education ministry and the JCTE, which became a private entity after being established as a public institution.
Other locations in Kingston and St Andrew, three in St James and one in Westmoreland, were searched by MOCA on March 17.
Properties linked to Cecil Cornwall, who served as chairman of the JCTE, were also searched as well as the Excelsior Community College on Mountain View Avenue in St Andrew. The college’s principal, Philmore McCarthy, had served as treasurer of JCTE.
Attorney Peter Champagnie, KC, who is representing McLean, has expressed concern about the pace of the investigation into allegations of financial impropriety.
Meanwhile, a recommendation by the auditor general for surcharge action to be made against Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) CEO Shane Dalling and Haleem Anderson, director of finance and administration, has become unenforceable.
The auditor general had reported the overpayment of sums by the FLA to five former employees. The value of the loss was reported as a little more than $8.3 million.
Morrison said that the matter was no longer enforceable since the prescribed period of limitation had elapsed.
The Auditor General’s Surcharge Review Committee Report indicated that the payments that resulted in the loss of public funds were made in May 2017, August 2017 and October 2017.
Morrison said that the recommendation for the imposition of the surcharge by the auditor general was made in August 2021, which is approximately four years after the date of the payments.