Education Minister battles GUT President

A war of words is being waged between Education Minister Anthony Boatswain and President of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Lydon Lewis over the handling of the free school books programme that was introduced in 2008 by the former Tillman Thomas-led National Democratic Congress (NDC administration.

The programme, which was one of the NDC social safety nets for the poor, afforded children school books at a cost of $25. It was being managed by the various schools throughout Grenada.

Two weeks ago, Minister Boatswain reported that an audit conducted by the Department of Audit unearth several financial irregularities with the programme, and disclosed that in excess of $100, 000 was still outstanding by the schools for books disbursed during the scheme.

In response to the minister’s statement, Lewis questioned the timing in which he came forward with the information.

The GUT President felt that because the union was currently engaged in a mild industrial action with government over the delay in paying the third disbursement of their retroactive monies, Minister Boatswain sought to portrait teachers as being greedy and unpatriotic.

Lewis also accused Boatswain of creating more problems in the Education system rather than solving those that are already existing.

Minister Boatswain lashed back while making an appearance on Real FM radio station last week Wednesday.

According to the senior government minister, the timing of the release of the information which first went to Cabinet had nothing to do with the issue of the teachers and their back pay.

“The intention there is to put me on a confrontational course with teachers, to say I am attacking teachers and principals,” he said.

Minister Boatswain said he made it clear in his initial remarks that the financial problems with the school books programme was not an indictment of teachers and principals, but to lay the blame at the feet of the previous administration for poor oversight and poor governance.

The Education Minister, however, said if he has his way, he will let those responsible repay the money and settle the matter.

The Audit Department is said to have made recommendations to government for the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) and the financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to be called in to probe the financial irregularities in the free school books programme.

Speculation is rife that most of the problems in the programme were due to a lack of proper accounting systems being put in place by the Permanent Secretaries in both the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Education for their respective financial departments to collect the monies for the books from the delinquent schools.

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