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Govt intervened

Published: 
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Government intervened in the Education Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL) but did not interfere, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday.

Rowley’s comment came as he responded to claims by former EFCL chairman Arnold Piggott that there was interference from high-ranking officials in the current Cabinet, Ministry of Education and political interventions by the Finance Minister during his tenure at the EFCL. Piggott also alleged that the Attorney General summoned a meeting the day after executive head Louis Frederick was suspended.

Piggott made the claims on Monday before a Joint Select Committee which was reviewing the operations of the EFCL during his tenure, adding too that similar activity occurred during the People’s Partnership’s tenure in office.

Yesterday, however, Rowley said: “The Government became aware of things happening that required action which was taken. If you have a misbehaving child it will call for the intervention of the parent, so it depends on what you call interference.

“As far as I am aware, certainly what we did was intervention not interference. It will be dereliction of duty to hear things not going right and turn a blind eye.”

Rowley admitted, however, that if there was any interference it needs to be highlighted.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Anthony Garcia yesterday refused comment on Piggott’s allegations, saying, “I do not wish to engage Mr Piggott or to get into any conversation that would add life to what he has said.”

He said he did not want to “cast judgement on anyone. But I want to say we are committed to work with the EFCL to ensure our system is able to deliver so that the curriculum could be implemented in an environment that promotes healthy teaching and learning.”

Garcia pointed out that he has been holding weekly meetings with the current EFCL board chaired by Ricardo Vasquez and is confident things are going “as the Government and the Ministry would like.”

He admitted there are a number of schools which are in need of repairs or which are under construction and need to be completed.

Asked why the ministry has not paid contractors who are owed outstanding monies to the tune of millions of dollars, Garcia said, “Our view is that once somebody has worked they must be paid. But there are instances where we had concerns with respect to claims made and we have to examine those claims before we can decide on payments.”

Garcia said contrary to what some believe, the EFCL set up in 2005 by the then Patrick Manning government had not outlived its usefulness.

He said, “More than 50 per cent of the schools are aged and in need of refurbishment or rebuilding and there is need for some agency or department to look after those needs. The EFCL is a special purpose company put in place to see about repair, construction and refurbishment of schools. This is the policy directive that we have been given and we are executing that policy as best as we can.”