EDUCATION MINISTER Anthony Garcia is sorry that funds were not released to denominational schools to pay cleaners for the last quarter but assures money would be deposited in the accounts of the boards by Monday or Tuesday.
“I am giving the assurance, based on the assurance I myself was given by our director of finance and accounts, that the cheques would be made payable to the denominational boards Monday or Tuesday, long before Christmas,” Garcia told Sunday Newsday yesterday.
“I sympathise with the cleaners and I want to assure them that they will be paid. I recognise that if somebody works that person needs to be paid. I am doing everything to ensure that. Everybody in the country is aware we are in financial straits and we have asked everybody, in other areas as well, to hold some kind of strain so that we will ensure payments are made.”
However, Association of Denominational Boards of Education chairman Sharon Mangroo said even if the money is deposited into the boards' accounts on Monday there is no guarantee cleaners will receive their payments before Christmas as it would take several days before funds are cleared.
Cleaners are usually paid around the same time as public servants and expected their salaries would be in their accounts by Monday, as December payments are made earlier.
On Friday, Mangroo said Government owed the boards millions in grants to pay hundreds of primary school cleaners. She said they did not receive grants for the months of October, November, December or January.
Mangroo said while 71 per cent of primary schools are owned by denominational boards, the Education Ministry was responsible for all financial matters.
“We facilitate by making the school buildings available to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Education pays the teachers, assists with the maintenance and upkeep, and they assist with the cleaning by giving a grant to the boards,” she said.
Grants are usually paid per quarters, Mangroo said, but noted boards did not receive any for the last three months of the year and was unusually late.
She said she was told the money was withheld while an exercise to verify the number of cleaners in relation to the student population of the schools was done.
Mangroo berated the ministry for not communicating this to the association.
“Knowing the financial situation in the country, we have not protested publicly. Over the past months we have been scrambling to find funds to pay people, but we can’t cover three months.”
Mangroo said in the new year the association plans to address how boards are dealt with by the ministry.
“We are not just any stakeholder. We own the majority of the schools. There has to be a better way, a more courteous way of engaging with the owners of the schools. You cannot go three months without paying people with no word to them and only when we call and start to fuss we get any action. That’s very discourteous.”