‘Nothing wrong’ with taxpayers funding $$M in secret scholarships -President

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Weeks after it was revealed that the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition has been secretly expending millions of dollars for several of its Ministers to benefit from full-scholarship programmes, President David Granger has pronounced that his Administration had done nothing wrong.

President David Granger

Speaking with reporters on the weekly televised programme ‘The Public Interest’, which aired its first segment for the year on Friday evening, the Head of State posited that he has always supported the academic development of persons, even those holding office.

“Somebody may want a Bachelor’s degree and assistance would be provided for that person to be upgraded. I don’t think anything is wrong with that,” the President asserted while adding that scholarships are granted to personnel within other public service agencies such as the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force so that the officers can perform better.

To this end, the Head of State pointed out that he is not necessarily concerned about scholarships being granted to persons holding office within his Administration, since he believes that with higher qualifications, officers of the State can improve their performance. This practice, the President outlined, occurs throughout the public service.

Junior Education Minister Nicolette Henry

“I don’t know the grounds for these specific cases but I would say that on the face of it, it is not a corrupt transaction; it is a legitimate means of career development and I think any form of enhancement of a person’s education should be more considerable,” he stressed.

Moreover, President Granger added that his Administration is committed to ensuring that citizens get more academic qualifications.

In midst of the consideration of 2017 Budget Estimates last month, it was revealed that Junior Education Minister Nicolette Henry and Junior Infrastructure Minister Annette Ferguson are among several Government officials who received millions of dollars to pursue their studies in the United States and the United Kingdom respectively.

Junior Infrastructure Minister Annette Ferguson

Henry is doing her PHD in Public Health to the tune of $3.36 million, while Ferguson is benefiting from a $3.38 million scholarship in Public Policy Management.

Additionally, Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine’s daughter, Alicia, is benefiting from a $2.58 million scholarship at a university in the UK. She is studying psychology.

Other notable beneficiaries are former Chief Education Officer Olato Sam, who is studying Education Policy in Jamaica, costing some $946,000 and a Guyana Chronicle Board Director Tabitha Sarabo-Halley who is currently pursuing Public Policy Management studies in the UK to the tune of $3.4 million. Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate 2014 top student Elisa Hamilton is also a beneficiary of the Government scholarships programme, but unlike the others, hers’ was publicly announced.

These revelations came about just over a month ago after Minister of State Joseph Harmon submitted a list of names of all the persons benefiting from Government scholarships in response to a request made by Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira.

Harmon had disclosed to the National Assembly that Government has provided full scholarships to nine persons at the PHD Level, 75 at the Masters Level, 186 at the Bachelors Level, and 704 at various local institutions.

Questions on the issue have since been raised regarding the process used to select the beneficiaries of the programme and why Government did not, in the interest transparency, disclose that it is funding the studies of some of its Ministers. (Guyana Times)

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