Matters re Grace McLean still in ‘investigative realm’ – Williams Loop Jamaica

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Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Dr Grace McLean, remains off the job for well over two years after being sent on interdiction, pending the conclusions of pertinent investigations at the ministry.

The Financial Investigations Divisions (FID) and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), in October of 2021, began conducting probes into the matter of approximately $124 million that was allegedly transferred to the Jamaica Committee of Tertiary Education (JCTE).

McLean, who was then Acting Permanent Secretary in the ministry, was sent on paid leave that month, this after an auditor general report pointed to the alleged transfer of funds.

McLean was to return to her substantive post of Chief Education Officer in January of 2022, but was sent on interdiction.

At a post-Cabinet press briefing last week, Education and Youth Minister, Fayval Williams, was asked about the McLean’s current status.

Fayval Williams

“With regards to the status of the former permanent secretary (acting), the most that I can say now is that the matter still remains in the investigative realm,” said Williams.

“We simply have to wait until those processes have been completed,” she indicated without providing any further details.

The FID and MOCA have not provided any update on their investigations to date.

In October of 2021, Auditor General Pamela Monroe-Ellis recommended the institution of “surcharge action against two senior officers” of the Education Ministry by the Ministry of Finance “on the basis that both failed to ensure that Government funds were appropriated in keeping with the requisite law and established guidelines”, among other things.

McLean and former Permanent Secretary in the Education Ministry, Dean-Roy Bernard, were believed to have been the senior officers who were cited by Monroe-Ellis relative to the alleged failure to account for funds transferred to JCTE by the ministry.

On September 20, 2023, Financial Secretary, Darlene Morrison, sent a letter to McLean notifying her that the surcharge notice had been withdrawn because three years had passed, making the notice not legally enforceable.

“Please note that the surcharge proceedings have been terminated on the following basis: The Auditor General’s Department Surcharge Review Committee Report indicates that Dr Grace McLean allowed the transfer of $11, 239,991.05 to the JCTE between April and June 2020.

“Section 20(2) of the Financial Administration and Audit Act states that “No such surcharge shall be made after the expiration of a period of three years from the date of such failure to collect, improper payment, payment not duly vouched, deficiency, loss or destruction, as the case may be.”

The letter continued: “Given the above, surcharge is at this time not legally enforceable, as the prescribed period within which surcharge can be effected has elapsed.”

McLean has always contended that the surcharge proceedings were of no merit.

By the following month after that development, Dr Kasan Troupe, who was the Acting Chief Education Officer, was appointed Permanent Secretary in the Education and Youth Ministry.

Maureen Dwyer had been acting in the position of Permanent Secretary in the Education Ministry since McLean was sent on leave in October of 2021, and it was Bernard’s earlier reassignment from the Education Ministry to the Finance Ministry in another capacity that led to McLean’s appointment as Acting Permanent Secretary in the Education Ministry in February of 2019.

Manager of the ministry’s Student Assessment Unit, Terry-Ann Thomas-Gayle, was appointed Acting Chief Education Officer in October of last year.