Fifty-five Innocent Enquiries!

Minister for Education Arsene James: Can he answer some of the questions featured here?

I am told by friends and acquaintances that the Minister of Education described me as “malicious” after I exposed the shortcomings that have seriously affected the ability of our Primary Schools to accept computers. In order to clear the air of any mis-understandings, perhaps the Minister would like to address the following innocent enquiries.
1. When in 2008 was the application for the Special Framework Grant for
Computerization of Primary Schools, etc, submitted to the European Commission?
2. How long did it take to prepare the application, given that its author joined the Ministry that same year?
3. When was the application approved?
4. When was this approval transmitted to authorities in St Lucia?
5. When did the Minister first hear that the grant had been approved?
6. If he told no one, why did he keep it secret?
7. If he told his Cabinet colleagues of an EC$ 18,000,000 windfall, why did they agree to keep it secret?
8. Why was the news of the approval of this EC$ 18,000,000 grant never made public?
9. Who, given that the approval of the grant was not public knowledge, knew about the grant at the Ministry of Education?
10. What was so secret about this EC$18,000,000 grant?
11. If the contract was not signed on May 20, 2009, when was it signed?
12. Why, given that no announcement of the approval of the grant had been made, was the actual signing of the agreement to computerize primary schools not made public?
13. What preparatory work was done in the period between the approval of the grant and the actual signing of contracts?
14. What was the time limit, after the signing of the contract, for the Ministry to assign projects before the grant of EC$ 18,000,000 was forfeited?
15. If these projects had not been identified before submitting the application for a grant, how did the Ministry know how much money to ask for?
16. Given that an application for a grant must specify how much money is to go to which projects, why are these projects only now being identified?
17. Does the Ministry agree that it would have been prudent to prepare for the absorption of funds and the implementation of the project before the contract was actually signed, given that only a limited timeframe remained?
18. Does the Ministry agree that, before submitting a proposal for EC$18,000,000, a determination regarding how the money was to be spent should have been made?
19. Is it the Minister’s position that he and his team have been working secretly on preparatory work since the signing of the contract 22 months ago and are, only now, ready to reveal the project?
20. Given that until my revelations were made public no one seems to have heard about the project and the grant, how have negotiations with potential contractors and beneficiaries been conducted?
21. What specific examples of preparatory work between May 2009 and March 2011 can the Minister supply?
22. Was there any particular reason why, on August 28, 2010, the Ministry announced the grant of EC$ 18,000,000 from the EU?
23. What preparatory work, such as supplying furniture, electricity and security in schools, has been done since the above-mentioned announcement in August 2010?
24. If you accept that Ministry personnel most closely connected to the InTime Project and to the recently revealed EU-funded Project had no idea that the EC$ 18,000,000 existed, how would you explain that preparatory work has been going on since 2009 in order to be ready for the public 2011 launch without anyone’s knowledge?
25. If the above is not true—that Ministry personnel were unaware of the EC$18,000,000—why has Ministry personnel steadfastly refused to help schools in need?
26. Why, immediately after the August 2010 announcement of the receipt of EC$ 18,000,000, did the Minister tell me and a representative for another major donor that the EU Project was just something that had been in the pipeline for years and had nothing to do with what we were doing?
27. Why did the Minister not see the connection between the InTime project and the EU project at that time?
28. Does the Minister think it ethical and correct to hide $EC 18,000,000 from foreign donors who are assisting identical projects?
29. Why has the Ministry not responded to requests from schools for furniture for computer labs during the period 2009–2011?
30. Why has the Ministry not responded to requests from schools for safer electricity for computer labs during the period 2009–2011?
31. Why has the Ministry not responded to requests from schools for Internet connectivity for computer labs during the period 2009–2011?
32. When was an account, to which the EU funds could be transferred, opened?
33. Why was the account opened at that particular time?
34. Why, at the Union Orchid Center launch of the InTime Project in 2010 did neither the Minister nor the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education mention the grant of EC$ 18,000,000 to assist in the computerization of primary schools?
35. Why, a year later, at the Union Orchid Center second launch of the InTime Project in 2011 did neither the Minister nor the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education mention the grant of EC$ 18,000,000 to assist in the computerization of primary schools?
36. Why were representatives of the InTime project and Taiwan neither informed of, nor invited to the launch in Vieux Fort of the EU project?
37. What, given the absolute inaccessibility of the Permanent Secretary, would have been an appropriate way of discovering the truth behind the EU project?
38. When did representatives of the EU first bring to the Ministry’s attention the fact that none of the funds had been drawn down?
39. When did representatives of the National Authorizing Office (NAO) in the Ministry of Economic Affairs first make the Ministry aware that no funds had been drawn down and that very little time remained to do so?
40. When did anyone inform the Minister that there were problems regarding the non-usage of EU funds?
41. What explanation has the NAO given for the delay in drawing down EU funds?
42. What explanation for the delay in drawing down funds has the Ministry given the NAO?
43. How often has the Minister briefed his Cabinet colleagues about the EU Project?
44. Why have adverts suddenly appeared in the past week in the press for vacancies to work on the project?
45. When did the Minister first become aware that EU inspectors would be on island to assess the situation?
46. Why did the Ministry attempt to keep the InTime project secret from the EU
inspectors?
47. How much did the Vieux Fort launch of the EU project cost?
48. How much did the EU project car cost?
49. What immediate improvements can pupils and teachers expect in their schools?
50. How much of the EC$ 18,000,000 is to be spent on salaries and other
emoluments?
51. How much of the EC$ 18,000,000 is to be spent on workshops for teachers in St Lucia?
52. How much of the EC$ 18,000,000 is to be spent on upgrading infrastructure?
53. How much of the EC$ 18,000,000 is to be spent on foreign travel?
54. How much of the EC$ 18,000,000 is to be spent on curriculum reform?
55. When can the country expect a detailed account of where the money will go?

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