Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament Tabitha Sarabo-Halley is accusing the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government of deliberately misleading the country on the GOAL Initiative.
Sarabo-Halley, who served as the Minister of Public Service under the Coalition Government, said while the PPP/C Government boasts about making 20,000 scholarships available, to date none has been issued under the GOAL programme.
“The truth is the PPP has not yet awarded any scholarship under this GOAL programme. While this year, funds were budgeted for approximately 4500 scholarships, the Ministry is only at the stage of accepting applications. Thus all billboards and signs that indicate that the promise of 20,000 scholarships have been delivered constitute nothing more than false advertising and downright lies,” the APNU+AFC MP said in a statement.
She said there are many unanswered questions regarding the programme that the Government ought to answer.
“Will recipients under this programme be contractually obligated in any way to the Government of Guyana and thus the people of Guyana? If yes, then how? Will beneficiaries of this programme be required to join the Public Service upon completing their studies? Was a formal needs assessment completed to inform the administration of the current and future skills needed for the Public Service, in particular and the country, in general?” the coalition MP asked.
Further, she wants to know what are the systems in place to ensure that there is equity and equality in the awarding of scholarships under the GOAL programme.
Sarabo-Halley said upon taking office in 2015 the APNU+AFC Coalition encountered a myriad of problems with respect to the existing scholarship programme. Students upon completing their programme had to wait for months or sometimes years to be placed.
“Year after year there was a mismatch between the number of graduates/areas of study and the number of vacancies to be filled in government agencies that would allow them to use the training and new knowledge gained,” she explained.
The APNU+AFC MP said upon taking office in May 2019, she was informed by the then Deputy Director of the State Asset Recovery Agency that there was an ongoing investigation into a number of irregularities in the Scholarship Department.
“Persons had purportedly benefitted from scholarships totaling in excess of GY$32.4BILLION (US$150Million) who could not be located. They have vanished into the wind. Never returned to serve their country. Never sent information to show their progress in the programmes that they were studying,” she explained.
She added: “Two young women, who were allegedly the hairdressers of former Minister of Public Service received scholarships of over $78 million to study in Canada. There are currently no files on these young women. While their names are in the system, we know not how they were viewed as eligible since they were not even citizens of Guyana. What we do know is that they are not in the Public Service currently serving the country who paid for their scholarships.”
Sarabo-Halley also referenced to a case in which a Minister’s daughter received a scholarship valued approximately $30M for her school fees and a further GY$1.5MILLION per month to pay her rent.
That Minister later wrote the Department of Public Service requesting that his daughter be released from serving the country and from repaying the monies spent on her behalf, due to debilitating mental health issues that would prevent her from completing her studies and graduating.
“Subsequently, a video surfaced which showed the very same daughter, walking across the stage to accept her certificate as a graduand. Since graduating she has worked in the Private Sector, making full use of the knowledge gained with our taxpayers dollars,” the MP said.
Let us contrast this to the names that the PPP continuously highlight as APNU+AFC supporters who received scholarships during the 2015-2020 period. They are either completing their programmes with every intention to return and serve their country, or serving their country while completing their programme or have finished their programmes and are proudly serving the people of this great country.
Sarabo-Halley said between 2015 and 2019, the APNU+AFC did an internal needs assessment and was preparing to do a substantial needs assessment survey intended to the issuance of scholarships for the next 10 years.
Approximately 2000 scholarships were awarded by the APNU+AFC administration over the period in office. This is not far different from the numbers awarded by the PPP administration pre 2015.
“In 2019 given the drastic economic shift that was taking place in the country and the recognition that a number of work permits were being sought from the Ministry of Citizenship for skills purportedly not available in Guyana, a decision was taken to do a comprehensive human resource needs assessment survey for both the public service and Guyana as a whole. The scope of which included quantifying and qualifying short to medium term skills, competency and training needs, and availability forecasts. This also involved identifying the re-training and redeploying needs, in line with organizational requirements,” she explained.
The APNU+AFC MP made it clear that while there is nothing wrong with scholarships, if the programme is not properly designed, Guyana’s Public Servants who pay the highest percentage of taxes to the government will see hundreds of millions of their taxpayers monies used to pay for scholarships that do not positively impact the lives of the majority of citizens of this great country.