JIS News

Prime Minister Bruce Golding has said that it would cost $900 million to fund the abolition of tuition fees at the secondary level. “We were advised by the Minister of Education that the total amount that would be required to meet that commitment (abolition of tuition fees) for the fiscal year 2007/08 is approximately $900 million,” the Prime Minister said at the (September 17), post-Cabinet press briefing held at Jamaica House.
“That’s an additional amount over and above what was originally provided in the budget when it was passed in April. What the Ministry of Education will now do is to have discussions with the Ministry of Finance regarding a payment schedule that will meet the obligations that the schools have to meet and also to deal with the question of refund,” he explained.
Prior to the general election on September 3, Mr. Golding had said that should the Jamaica Labour Party form the next government, he would abolish tuition fees at the secondary level, beginning this academic year.
The Prime Minister said that based on preliminary assessments, approximately half of the money has already been paid over to the schools in the form of tuition fees.
“Minister Holness told me that based on a preliminary assessment, approximately half of the fees that should have been paid were in fact paid. So it would appear that there is about $450 million that will be paid to the schools for those who had not paid the fees and the other $450 million will have to be paid as refund to those parents and those students who had paid,” he added. The Prime Minister pointed out that a mechanism would be worked out to refund those persons who have already paid school fees. “We have instructed the Minister of Education to have discussions with the regional education offices, and with the various schools to fine-tune a mechanism for the refund of those payments to those persons who had paid,” he said.
Mr. Golding reiterated that persons would have to provide proof that they actually paid school fees in order to receive a refund.
“The question of refund requires some preparation, because in many instances, payments were made through the banks and therefore we are going to require presentation of bank vouchers to validate the refund,” he said.
“In some instances, payments were made directly to the schools. We are going to require proper accounting, proper reports of the amounts that are due and payable. What is important is to ensure that every payment that we make can be validated, so that when the matter comes up for scrutiny by the Auditor General, the Auditor General will be satisfied that the appropriate steps were taken to ensure that refunds were made to those persons to whom refunds were legitimately due,” Mr. Golding added.
He said the Government should know by next Monday (September 24), where the money would come from to pay the schools, as well as to refund parents.
Also participating in the press briefing were: Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry, Warren Newby.

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