Mon | May 16, 2022

McLean in limbo as minister, PS mum on status

Published:Thursday | January 20, 2022 | 12:09 AMBarbara Gayle and Sharlene Hendricks/Gleaner Writers
Acting Chief Education Officer Kasan Troupe (left) and Dr Grace McLean. It is unclear whether McLean, who has been sent on leave, will retake her substantive post.
Acting Chief Education Officer Kasan Troupe (left) and Dr Grace McLean. It is unclear whether McLean, who has been sent on leave, will retake her substantive post.

Amid reports that former acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Dr Grace McLean, would resume work today, Queen’s Counsel Peter Champagnie has said that his client has not been told when to return. Meanwhile, Education Minister...

Amid reports that former acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Dr Grace McLean, would resume work today, Queen’s Counsel Peter Champagnie has said that his client has not been told when to return.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Fayval Williams and acting Permanent Secretary Maureen Dwyer have remained stone-faced and tight-lipped, with neither pronouncing on McLean’s immediate future at the ministry’s Heroes Circle headquarters.

McLean’s paid leave was scheduled to end on Wednesday after she was sent home last October after two law-enforcement agencies launched investigations into $124 million in unaccounted-for payouts to the Joint Committee on Tertiary Education (JCTE).

Champagnie said McLean received a WhatsApp message recently from the education ministry stating that she would have been advised by January 19 of her status.

McLean’s substantative post is chief education officer. Kasan Troupe currently acts in that role.

Champagnie wrote to the Ministry of Finance about two weeks ago detailing why no surcharge should be imposed on McLean but told The Gleaner that he has only received an acknowledgement of receipt of the letter.

His letter was in reply to a request from the Ministry of Finance for McLean to provide a response in defence of a recommendation that a surcharge should be executed.

Champagnie said based on his instructions, a surcharge was not warranted because McLean’s actions would not warrant such consideration.

Queries posed to Williams about McLean’s return to the ministry were redirected to the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The minister further indicated that she was awaiting “the deliberations of the Office of Services Commission”.

“Obviously, that’s being handled by a different entity, the Public Service Commission and the Office of the Services Commission,” said the minister.

Contacted on the matter, Alvin McIntosh, chairman of the PSC, promised to respond to queries after a meeting he was attending was finished. Several follow-up calls went unanswered.

In a January 5 interview with The Gleaner, acting Permanent Secretary Maureen Dwyer declined comment in response to a Jamaica Observer story that day that she had issued correspondence to the human resources department to make arrangements for McLean’s return as chief education officer.

TIGHTLIPPED

Pressed on Wednesday about the probe by the Financial Investigations Division and the Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency into the unaccounted-for $124 million, Williams remained tight-lipped, stating that there were “no updates other than to say that investigations are continuing”.

The Ministry of Education had reported that surcharge action had been taken against in-limbo permanent secretary Dean-Roy Bernard and McLean, who acted in his post, following revelations that the ministry was not able to account for $124 million of taxpayers’ money.

The Ministry of Finance later denied that surcharge proceedings had begun despite correspondence to the contrary under the signature of the financial Secretary was instituted against them.

The funds were paid to the Cecil Cornwall-chaired Joint Committee on Tertiary Education over a 32-month period. The funds have not been recovered.

Bernard was transferred from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Finance in February 2019 as director general. But he took the issue to the Supreme Court, seeking judicial review to quash the transfer. The matter came up for hearing this week and has been put off to November 14.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis had recommended in October last year that the Ministry of Finance should take surcharge action against Bernard and McLean because they had failed in their fiduciary responsibilities. They have both denied the claim.

sharlene.hendricks@gleanerjm.com