The Public Administration Ministry is blaming national scholarship winners for the ministry's late payment of funds.
Corporate Communications Director of the Public Administration Ministry Rae Ann Harper-Walters, said students have been submitting invoices late and this has resulted in their payments not reaching them on time. She told Triniscene.com that in order to receive payment the scholars should maintain a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.5 or the equivalent of a B. "Once their GPA is maintained the Personal Maintenance Allowance (PMA) is paid automatically," she said.
For Tuition fees to be paid, the Ministry said that the University or Institution of study will have to submit an invoice in order for payment to be received. Due to the late registration of students or the inability of some students to make sure that their institutions have submitted all of their required documents, the Ministry said it will receive these invoices late and thus the payment of fees will be late.
Harper-Walters said that while the PMAs for all national scholarship winners for the period September to November are expected to be paid by next week Friday, September 25th, she claimed there were no outstanding payments for the previous terms.
According to the Advanced Level Scholarship Booklet, PMAs are payments that contribute to the cost associated with room, board and local transport, and is paid via the student's visa debit account. For the period September to November the document states that it should have been payed to scholars by August 28th. However, the Ministry is giving a different story saying that PMAs are to be paid on the first Thursday or Friday of the quarter and not in advance.
This isn’t sitting well with at least one of the affected students who first contacted Triniscene.com about scholars’ frustration. Elron Elahie, a law student at the University College London, told Triniscene.com that the students were never informed of PMAs being paid on the first Thursday and Friday of every quarter.
“The other students and I operate by what was stated in the Advanced Level Scholarship booklet, which included advanced payment,” he said. He also dismissed Harper-Walters’ statement that students are to blame because they have been tardy with their documentation regarding the timeframes for sending in those documents. “That was never communicated on time. Students only received an email less than weeks ago from the scholarships division.”
The email states that “with effect from Monday 21st September 2015 all scholars are required to submit certain documents to their assigned Scholar Support Officers at the Scholarships and Advanced Training Division (SATD) in order to ensure the accurate and timely payment of allowances and university fees. These documents include a status letter from the university confirming the student's enrolment for the following year. A transcript from the previous year showing the required GPA (where applicable), and an invoice for the next period (year/semester). The failure to provide the required documents on time would result in the late payment of fees seeing as processing can only commence upon them being received.”
Elahie said this was the first time that students were being made aware of these requirements and he expressed concern about the contradicting statements coming from the Ministry of Public Administration and their Advanced Level Scholarship booklet. “Especially seeing as these implementations were only coming into effect from September 21st,” he said.
Last week the permanent secretary to the Ministry stated that in cases of the late disbursement of tuition and allowances there is an agreement where Trinidad and Tobago embassies in the respective countries will handle the payment, with the promise of reimbursement at a later date. According to Harper-Walters the funding for the allowances to be paid next Friday is not coming from the embassy agreement. Whether any of the outstanding payments from the previous quarter were settled through the embassies Ms Harper-Walters could not say.
Public Administration Minister Randall Mitchel, in an exclusive interview with Triniscene.com on September 11th, said the issue will be dealt with immediately. The saga, however, continues and like his counterparts, Elahie will have a seven day wait to see if the ministry’s promises will be fulfilled. Moreover, whether or not history will repeat itself.