Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U said on Wednesday that she has ordered the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau (DSEJ) to review its granting of subsidies to local schools for various projects over the past five years, and submit a report to her within three months.
Ao Ieong made the remarks while speaking to reporters at the Macao Chamber of Commerce (ACM) in Zape where she attended a National Day reception hosted by the Macau Chamber of Commerce (ACM).
The policy secretary’s remarks came after the Judiciary Police (PJ) announced on Tuesday that they have arrested a former vice-principal for allegedly cheating the government out of MOP 20 million (US$2.51 million) in subsidies several years ago when she was at the helm of a local school, in suspected collusion with an engineering company, for the installation of new facilities and the launch of new courses at the school, most of which never got off the ground. The police have also arrested the engineering company’s owner and his younger sister. The police are still looking for the then principal of the school, who allegedly was also involved in the case.
According to Tuesday’s PJ announcement, the case was discovered when a new principal took office in 2017, after the then principal and the then vice principal stopped working for the school. The Judiciary Police received the case in March 2018 from the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau, which told the police that the school had applied for, and received subsidies of MOP 28 million from the bureau for a string of projects in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 school years, based on fake documents, and that it confirmed that the school had cheated the bureau out of MOP 20.38 million out of the MOP 28 million.
In a follow-up statement on Tuesday, the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau said that it had granted the subsidies to the school through its Education Development Fund, from which local schools can apply for subsidies for various kinds of education development projects, such as the installation of new facilities and equipment, curriculum development, and teacher training.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Ao Ieong pointed out that the bureau discovered the case after its regular scrutiny of information concerning its subsidies granted to local schools, after which it launched an investigation into the case and transferred it to the Judiciary Police for further investigation. Ao Ieong said that she has ordered the bureau to carry out a review of its granting of subsidies to local schools through its Education Development Fund over the last five years, and submit a report about the matter to her within three months.
Ao Ieong said that after the bureau submits the report to her, the government will strengthen its assessments of local schools’ applications for subsidies for the launch of new projects and its monitoring of the subsidised projects.
Ao Ieong pointed out that in addition to the Education Development Fund, the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau also runs several other funds providing subsidies, as well as its continuing education subsidy scheme, officially known as “Continuing Education and Development Programme”.
The policy secretary also said that the police have been able to detect a number of criminal cases concerning the use of subsidies granted by the bureau, and the Commission of Audit (CA) has been able to discover a number of cases concerning irregularities in the use of its subsidies, primarily thanks to the bureau’s strong supervision of the use of its subsidies.
Ao Ieong also pointed out that the operator of the school has returned the subsidies to the bureau for projects and courses that were never carried out, adding that the school has fully cooperated with the police in their investigation, adding that the case has not adversely affected the operation of the school.
The police have not revealed the name of the school. Informed sources have told the Macau Post Daily that the school is owned by the Catholic diocese. The sources also said that the diocese was still considering whether it was appropriate to reveal the name of the school during the ongoing investigation.
Merger of education entities
Meanwhile, Ao Ieong also said that the government expects the merger of the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau and the Higher Education Bureau (DSES) to get off the ground by the end of this year. She said that as education and youth work both have an important impact on civil society, the government will ensure that the two bureaus’ merger will be carried out in a stable way, meaning that the government does not want a major reshuffle in personnel in the wake of the upcoming merger.
Ao Ieong also underlined that the government will launch a pilot scheme to pay subsidies to caregivers within this year.
(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)
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