Education Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness, has given stern instructions to school boards to carry out regular and extensive audits of their institutions, stating that investigations by the Ministry have found that school resources are not being managed efficiently.
Speaking at a meeting with chairmen and selected members of school boards at the Immaculate Conception High School in Kingston on Thursday May 12, Mr. Holness informed that recent audits by the Ministry have shown that many schools were failing to properly distribute the books given to them under the textbook scheme.
“For many years, we expected that the books we gave to schools were actually distributed. We discovered almost $9 million worth of books packed up in the book rooms of two schools,” he stated.
The quantity of books, the Minister informed, could supply 50 per cent of the schools on the textbook scheme in September.
He noted that under the National Education Inspectorate to be put in place, principals and board chairmen will be held accountable for how they manage school resources.
He urged the board heads to question principals on how resources are being used and to carry out their own investigations to ensure that records and funds are intact, warning that the Ministry will be conducting audits.
“If your school is inspected or audited it could very well turn up some things that are embarrassing, so I want to put board chairmen on alert. Don’t wait for us to audit; you need to start asking questions of your school,” he said.
“In fact, what we have done is to do a random listing and we randomly audit about 10 per cent of schools every year, but you will be audited, even if it takes 10 years, so don’t wait on us to audit,” he added.
Minister Holness said that one of the main areas of concern was the management and maintenance of tuck shops and urged the school boards to “pay particular attention to this area, which is coming up in almost every audit that we do."
He informed that the Government spends more than $2.2 billion on nutrition annually, all of which ends up in the school tuck shops and canteens. “We’re confronted with this issue of the tuck shops operated in public schools that don’t necessarily follow the nutrition policy of the Government,” he said.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter