Education Ministry Highlights Progress Made in the Management of Scholarships
Published 24th January 2013, 11:24am
Internal Auditors reviewing the management of the Government Scholarship Programme in the 2009/2010 financial year found that one year later, under new leadership, the Ministry had made significant progress.
A recent article published by the Caymanian Compass entitled “Scholarships given to wealthy”, highlighted weaknesses reported by Internal Auditors in the way the government scholarship programme was managed, based on data and practices reviewed for the financial year July 2009 to June 2010.
Just one year later, in July 2011, when the Internal Auditors visited, they concluded that the Ministry, now under new leadership, was well on its way to addressing many of these weaknesses. In page 2 of their report the Internal Auditors concluded: “…the Secretariat has taken steps to implement the majority of the audit recommendations and have committed to ongoing monitoring and review”.
In their report the Internal Auditors reported that for the 2009/2010 financial year, “We could not fully validate compliance regarding the awarding of scholarships…”
According to Education Minister the Hon. Rolston Anglin, JP, statements like these confirmed his own findings upon taking up office in May 2009.
“I was especially concerned to find that there were significant weaknesses in the vetting of applications and the monitoring of performance. The fact that there was only one staff member managing the budget and process was also an issue. I shared these and other concerns with the country in public statements and then set to work to bring real change,” Minister Anglin said.
By the time the Internal Auditors visited, in July 2011, the team managing the scholarship programme had increased from 1 person to 3. According to Chief Officer, Mrs. Mary Rodrigues, this was an essential first step. “We wanted to ensure we had the resources to better manage the millions of dollars being invested in our young people. We also wanted a unit that had the capacity to counsel and guide our students, and to monitor and hold recipients accountable for the investment being made in them,” Mrs. Rodrigues stated.
Minister Anglin explained that the scholarship programme is based on merit, supporting access to tertiary education for all those who qualify and meet the academic standards set. The maximum award is CI$20,000 per year for undergraduate studies overseas.
“The scholarship programme was set up and continues to operate as a critical investment in our young people and the future of our country, to achieve better educated citizens more equipped to deal with new challenges and technological advances and to ensure the Cayman Islands can compete on a level playing field with other countries,” the Minister stated.
Minister Anglin noted that over time scholarship recipients have come from all strata of society and have returned to make meaningful contributions in many different fields in our country.
Ms. Deirdre Seymour joined the Scholarship Secretariat as Manager in January 2011. She explained that with the support of Education Council, the Ministry has continued to build on the progress made during the 2010/11 financial year. Ms. Seymour highlighted the following as some key indicators of the progress made in the last 3 years:
- Enhanced tracking system for the issuance of funds and expenditure per scholarship recipient.
- Introduced a new Online Scholarship Application programme to facilitate the receipt of applications for local and overseas scholarships together with supporting documentation.
- Improved and enhanced scholarship documentation relative to applications, bonding and academic performance requirements and maintenance of individual scholarships.
- Improved response times for the award of scholarships, disbursement of funds, queries and document submission for new and returning scholarship recipients.
- Reduction of foot traffic requirements into the Ministry of Education which benefited the Ministry, current scholarship recipients and new applicants by the use of email submissions and online uploads of required documentation.
- A significant increase in issued warnings and suspended funding for current local and overseas scholarship recipients not meeting academic requirements.
- Improved and enhanced student support and career guidance including public and private school visits and presentations by the Scholarship Secretariat.
The Ministry of Education and Scholarship Secretariat want to ensure the public that they are committed to continually improving the Cayman Islands Government Scholarship Services. For more information on the Government Scholarship program please call 244-2482 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Persons can also visit the scholarship page on the Ministry’s website at: www.education.gov.ky.