‘Lagging initiatives’

CHAIRMAN of the Education Transformation Oversight Committee Dr Adrian Stokes has flagged the Government’s public procurement system as one factor causing implementation of some initiatives from the Professor Orlando Patterson-led Education Transformation Commission to lag.

Speaking at a Ministry of Education and Youth Press Conference on the programme at Jamaica House in St Andrew on Wednesday, Dr Stokes said “procurement issues” have affected plans for the implementation of broadband infrastructure in schools.

According to Dr Stokes, “It is quite a substantive piece of work to be done, something that will impact lives in a very big way.

“Again we are encouraging the ministry to ensure that the work here is advanced in a serious way. This has the important role of really transforming our education sector, very, very important initiative,” he stated.

In the meantime, he told the briefing that “another other important initiative that’s lagging is the procurement of key technological resources, software to aid the project management process”.

“As you know, we ultimately want to get to a point where we can have the updates available to the public by clicking a link that requires some work in the back end, including how we organise the project to begin with in a digital way, and there is some work to be done there to ensure that how we store the project data is done in a way that makes users able to access that data,” Dr Stokes explained.

He said the committee has been engaging in dialogue with the ministry to devise ways to “get back on track with these initiatives”.

The two initiatives were among four that the oversight committee chairman described as “lagging”.

The programme’s main objective is to advance the education sector’s modernisation and build on initiatives already executed. These include improving the management of school plants, human and capital resources and student outcomes by 2025/26, and improving school efficiency and administration by establishing a management framework.

Other objectives are to increase student access to quality secondary-school places through the construction of six new science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) and one visual and performing arts secondary-level institutions by 2028/29.

Education Minister Fayval Williams, addressing the briefing on Wednesday, said a lot of preliminary work has been done in relation to implementation of the Patterson Report which had made 365 recommendations.

“Implementation work has started on 93 of them which amount to about 25 per cent of the total,” Williams stated.

Dr Stoke’s indications are the latest in a slew of complaints about the onerous public procurement system.

Earlier this month, the issue took centre stage during a meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) which examined the third supplementary estimates for fiscal year 2023/24 with committee members questioning why capital projects, for which funds were allocated, had not been completed and the unused money “sent back”.

Days later complaints about the procurement process came from several other high-profile public servants including Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton and Members of Parliament Tova Hamilton, Mikhail Phillips, and Delroy Chuck — who have pointed to the almost stifling effect that the procurement process has been having on projects designed to improve lives.