Parliament committee asks about teachers housing fund

The Ministry of Finance is exploring the placement of the $200 million Housing Revolving Fund, established in 2011 to allow teachers to access low-rate home loans, under the management of the Student Loan Agency, Finance Secretary (FS) Hector Butts stated yesterday.

It has been seven years since former Minister of Education Shaik Baksh would have announced that loans could be accessed from the $200 million fund, but according to the Auditor General’s report, no disbursements have yet been made.

Butts, during the Ministry of Education’s appearance before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament yesterday, told members that while an account for the fund exists, the ministry is currently looking at the logistics – that is, finding an agency to manage the fund, after which he stated that the Student Loan Agency, which falls under the Ministry of Finance, is being considered.

PAC member Jermaine Figueira had requested an update from the education ministry’s Permanent Secretary (PS) Vibert Welch on the status of the fund and why the Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU) has not yet benefited from the money.

Hector Butts (GINA photo)

Welch had indicated that the advice of the FS had been sought but the ministry would be looking to engage the GTU over the matter.

During questioning, Welch revealed that while he became aware of the agreement between the GTU and the education ministry when he was relocated to the ministry in March, he had not actually read the agreement. He later committed to doing so and to engaging the union on the way forward as regards the fund within the upcoming week.

“… You are the PS for the Ministry of Education, you can’t wait until you come before the PAC to tell us you haven’t read an agreement that is so critical…it’s unfortunate that you would come before the PAC to inform us that you would have not read an agreement that is so important and an issue that has been raised in the auditor general’s report,” committee Chairman Irfaan Ali stated.

The PS was also upbraided a number of times for being too dependent on the former PS Delma Nedd to provide answers.

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