THE HEART/NSTA Trust is advising potential participants in its programmes to beware fraudulent entities purporting to offer certification on its behalf.

This warning comes from Members of Parliament (MPs) who have seen first hand their constituents falling victim to these schemes.

Just last year, HEART had to defend its honour when unscrupulous persons sought to defraud Jamaicans with an offer for overseas employment.

This was done via a flyer circulated on social media indicating that the agency was working with the Jamaican Consulate of the Cayman Islands to facilitate employment in Cayman.

In advertisements placed in the newspapers at the time, the trust advised that it is not mandated to facilitate/guarantee overseas employment and as such would never conduct promotional activity of any kind, making any such claims.

On Wednesday, during a meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), MPs raised the matter as the committee continued its inquisition of HEART representatives.

Government committee member Kerensia Morrison expressed concern about unregulated entities offering or promising HEART certification — which could be fraudulent — and questioned what systems are being put in place to clamp down on them.

“From time to time, constituents will say to me that they went and they did a HEART training programme at this school and they are unable to get the certificate and I am wondering how many of them are really having a partnership with HEART or they are in a position…to offer HEART certification. So well it could very well be a scam,” she said.

Morrison, who is MP for St Catherine North Eastern, provided the scenario of a mother who decided to go back to school and get certified, and “goes to one of these little institutions” that promises a HEART certificate but after completion gets the run-around for months, years, having spent money to attend. “It is heart-rending,” she said.

Opposition member and MP for St Catherine Southern Fitz Jackson said he has also encountered the issue of constituents being duped by some of these entities offering HEART and other programmes.

“In my constituency there are some programmes [for which] young people come to my office to seek assistance… it’s a ‘no-no’… like some of these practical nursing programmes. That is a scam! Because 90-odd per cent of them who leave with a certificate can’t go anywhere. But yet the people who run these programmes make a whole lot of money,” he said.

Jackson said that some of these shady individuals use HEART’s name in claiming to be one of its training entities, so many people then believe it is a legitimate programme.

Managing director of HEART/NSTA Trust Dr Taneisha Ingleton told committee members that the entity gets reports of fraudulent activities “every now and then”.

“There will be a post on social media that this particular person or agency is offering training. When we do our checks, we realise that it’s fraudulent. What we do with that [is] we report internally to our legal counsel and we report externally to the police,” she said.

She noted that the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) which is HEART’s certifying body, has arrangements with private providers to train and certify individuals across Jamaica, which are referred to as Authorised Training Organisations (ATOs).

She stressed that only approved entities are allowed to offer training on behalf of HEART/NSTA Trust.

“What the NCTVET does to combat that is publishing a list on its website of all of the approved Authorised Training Organisations so anybody can go on to see if this particular one that popped up on social media is part of that approved listing,” she said.

Meanwhile, Jackson insisted that the HEART/NSTA Trust has to ensure it establishes safeguards to deter people from attempting to sully the name of the entity by aligning it with illicit activities.

“People who are found to be fraudulent must be on the headline, not just because you want to shame them, though that should be part of it. [But also] so that people know, and don’t fall prey to these people,” he said, suggesting that the entities be named and publicly stated that they are operating fraudulently.

“Your institution’s name and reputation is on the line. You have to act in a proactive way to protect the integrity and the reputation of HEART. I’m a strong believer in HEART, I’m an ambassador of HEART and that’s why I will passionately try to protect it because we can’t damage our institution,” he said.

Morrison agreed and encouraged HEART to engage in a public education programme about its approved training entities.

“Let it be out there, big and bold; these are the approved institutions. Anything outside of this, do not sign up, do not spend your money,” she said.