The stunning revelation that the Ministry of Education has terminated the basic courtesy of a tea service at meetings typifies the rank incompetence of Minister Anthony Garcia, who is presiding over a $7.2 billion annual budget.
Despite Mr. Garcia’s firm assurances, classes were suspended for such matters are the lack of essential repairs, pigeon droppings and non-functioning of air condition and other facilities.
At several schools, there are critical shortages of cleaning material, basic classroom needs, toiletries and other vital day-to-day requirements.
The lack of funding for the tea service and school repairs and maintenance is taking place against the backdrop of gross financial irregularities at Education Facilities Company Ltd., (EFC), under Mr. Garcia’s watch.
There has been documentary evidence of widespread corruption, bid-rigging, squandermania and abuse of office at EFCL during the current Rowley regime.
They include the fixing of million-dollar contracts to cronies of the PNM, disbarring of certain previous contractors, re-opening of closed tenders and the award of a deal worth more than $50 million to a bidder who placed lowest in an evaluation.
Taxpayers were assured several months ago of an audit into the financial wrongdoings at the State enterprise, but, in typical PNM style, the matter has since been kept secret and most of EFCL’s Directors have been retained.
The refusal to take appropriate decisive action amounts to the Government’s sanctioning of corruption with the public’s purse.
The financial and administrative offences and bungling compound Mr. Garcia’s glaring ineptitude and backwardness.
This is evident in such matters as the dismantling of schools curricula, absence of construction of new schools, shutdown of homework centres, scrapping of the allocation of computer laptops and withdrawal of the services of several professionals.
In addition, concessionaires of the School Feeding Programme, student transport and other service providers are being owed large sums of money, placing several of them in precarious financial positions.
The retrograde move to cut back in the funding of GATE has led to significant fallout in the enrolment of tertiary students.
The tea scandal characterises Mr. Garcia’s patent absence of any leadership skills and his dreadful mismanagement of the all-important education sector.
Through his wretched performance, he has done harm to a sector that was preparing the next generation of leaders for a modern, competitive and knowledge-based world.
Mr. Garcia’s removal from the important Education Ministry is long overdue.
DR. TIM GOPEESINGH,
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR CARONI EAST,
FORMER MINISTER OF EDUCATION