Audit reveals NBF inequality

| 03/12/2013

(CNS): An internal audit undertaken by the education ministry has confirmed some of the concerns raised by Premier Alden McLaughlin in the Legislative Assembly recently over scholarships awarded under the controversial Nation Building Fund. The audit found that several students receiving the education grants under this fund, which was created and managed by former premier McKeeva Bush's office, have in fact received significantly more cash than students on regular Education Council scholarships. McLaughlin said in a statement that this inequality would be addressed. The audit identified that during the 2012/13 academic year 116 students received some $2.25 million from the Nation Building Fund.

This covered high school scholarships to grants for post-graduate degree programmes.

In a statement released by McLaughlin's office, officials said that most of the current students were receiving CI$25,000 or less, in line with the maximum scholarship award allowed under the scholarship provisions of the Education Council.  However, 17 students were receiving between CI$27,000 and CI$63,000. These included two high school scholarship recipients, whose annual scholarship grants were US$69,590 for one student and the second was for a whopping US$71,810 per year. A third student also received CI$63,000 per annum for a tertiary grant.

The audit also revealed that twenty-five students receiving cash from the NBF scholarships are receiving an Education Council scholarship as well. Nine of the fund recipients are also receiving a scholarship from the Ministry of Tourism and at least two were found to be getting cash from all three government departments.

The audit also revealed that two sports-related high school scholarships had been awarded at a cost to government of CI$306,754 per year but the sports ministry had no involvement with these awards.

"The purported primary purpose of these scholarships appeared to be to further the athletic skills of the high school students. However, the Ministry of Sports was not involved in setting any sports related standards or goals to be achieved," the premier stated in the release.

In addition, the two recipients received a commitment for a three-year period for the annual scholarship of CI$28,000 per annum from 1 April 2013 to support their track and field training, reportedly in preparation for the 2016 Olympics. 

"Again, there was no involvement of the Ministry of Sports in awarding or administering this grant," McLaughlin said. Because there is no educational or scholarship component, administration of this cash has now been handed over to the Ministry of Sports.

Students receiving money from the Nation Building Scholarships Fund have been informed that their funding will be in line with Education Council Scholarship funding and the government has invited them to give their views on the changes in writing to Cabinet.

"It is government’s intention to level the playing field and establish proper and transparent criteria that will be applied to all scholarship applicants and recipients," the government said.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly recently, McLaughlin accused Bush, now the opposition leader, of political interference regarding the fund. He had suggested that when, as premier, Bush had created the controversial fund, he had also directed who got what amounts, which in some cases meant the cash went to the family of leading UDP members.

The issue caused the former premier to hit back and deny having a political hand in the fund. He in turn accused the current premier of playing politics and not wanting to assist Caymanians.

Bush admitted that some scholarships exceeded the limits of Education Council scholarships but said that was because these were young Caymanians who had the chance to go to specialist schools or take up specialist training and these days they needed more money.

The opposition and UDP leader also berated McLaughlin for threatening to name students, and although the premier had indicated in the LA that one of the students was a child of Bush's former political assistant, he had not directly named the student or any others, despite threatening to do so.

Bush said the premier could make him look bad all he wanted but he should not take aim at the students involved.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    McKeeva said he passed it all over to his then Chief of Staff to deal with (not my fault, bro!) so should the auditors not be checking with him on all this?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I firmly believe that the CIG employees, the CFO  or and DCFO who signed off for these individuals to get NBS in amounts so high, should be the ones held liable, not Mckeeva. When you are a CS you are hired by the CIG not the politician. YOU NEED TO BE SMART AND INVESTIGATE AND BE HONEST AND DO WHAT IS RIGHT!!  I do not believe for one minute that Mckeeva specified that these particular individuals should get those amount.  The board made those poor decisions. Poor in the sense of the high amounts and not checking and cross checking to ensure the same children, were not getting 2 other scholarships at the same time.

    If the correct investigations were done, one may find that it is highly possibly a CIG employee was aligned with the student who got the scholarship first, then the other parent that worked in the Min maybe wanted his/her child to get equal amount too.  Easier to place all the blame on MAC….and yes perhaps he knew about it, but he is the politician, yes paid by public funds, but he is not the CIG employee. BTW I am not for any party so my comment is not about taking the side of UDP or PPM. Ultimately the CIG employee paid the funds out not the politician!

    While I agree that the children should not be held responsible, their parents should be ashamed of themselves…No way on earth should parents be so greedy to accept that amount of funding for high school tuition per year. Could they not find another high school that charged less?! Yes we must support our children but that was over and above for a high school.

    I know both students and they are not top scholars I am pretty sure, but stand to be corrected.  They are very talented athletes, and I am not, and do not believe, anyone is saying they should not had been given the opportunity. The issue here is that exorbitant amount for a high school per year! Disgraceful, how could that have been granted?!  In my opinion the blame ultimately should be laid at the feet of the CIG employees who handle the funds for this particular Ministry. They should have use their common sense obviously they were not using their degrees. They should have refused to pay those amounts for each of those students. Then again if you are aligned….all that goes out the window… 

    To be honest I really pondered back when I heard of this more than 2 years back, if the school were not using the funds they claim was the tuition fee for our students, to help fund other students or and fund their programs.

    Over the years I have witnesses a good few friends and other individuals who work for CIG. They are totally disgusted with the dishonesty and slackness of specific fellow CS. I am not saying they are all dishonest and slackers, I know there are many intelligent, honest and hardworking CS, who save CIG much by doing more than their share.  But sadly the slack dishonest ones, even though much fewer in numbers, seem to be the ones to get the higher positions….possibly because they help each other. AND some of the others in positions that actually work, are scared to call them out, even when staff report slackness time and time again. Nothing is done so the crap just continues.  AND when you dare to speak out to te actual person, you get tainted and marginalised or and constantly left out… so you either shut up and just continue to do your work and cover their butts…or life get  so made miserable, you leave. There is the saying…."the bigger the ho…. the better the luck"….

    It takes courage to go against the grain…the present Govt need to ask themselves; what is the quality of their intent? The quality of their intent should be evident in the results. They need to start doing what is right. Call employees out when they are wrong and make examples of them!

    CS are suppose to work for the best interest of the CIG. Not line their pockets or make unscrupulous decisions to assist their family, friend or friends children. But then again, maybe people handling these incidents are hesitant about calling out others, when they have made similar decisions themselves, albeit on different matters. Not saying that is actually the case for all..just a possiblity. If it were the actual case, we will never get anywhere because it seems as if every Govt or individuals in many top position we have had so far, have been scared of what could be exposed…on them or simply scared of rocking the boat. Country MUST come FIRST!


    • Anonymous says:

      Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/12/2013 – 23:49 I applaud you for your post on this.  It is another example of why the Premier and his government had better be careful with how much trust they are placing in the Immigration Department when they are grabbing decision making authority from the Boards and giving it to that department.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Scholarships should be granted to those who achieve academic excellence and qualify for university or college studies.  Such scholarships should be evaluated annually based on student performance.  Everyone else should be offered government sponsored student loans issued by local banks in a govt private sector partnership where interest is paid by govt until graduation.   Such student loans should be offered to those in need based on earnings or net worth of parents.  Parents would have to consign the student loans as guarantors.  Those student loans should be the responsibility of students. 

    There should be no scholarships for high school when govt offers free education locally. 

    This way overachievers can be granted scholarships if in need.  Achieves and underachievers would have the option of a student loans. A system such as this would promote accountability on the part of students, parents and govt. 

    Too much free money being given away without accountability.  It's time to motivate our kids to overachieve. Our current system of scholarships promotes entitlement without accountability. Time for a major change.


  4. Anonymous says:

    I think we may be shooting the wrong people. It's those in charge of the scholarship process at the time that created this unfair situation. The kids are just kids. They didn't play politics, how could have they? They do not need to be named and shamed; rather, it is those in charge within the government that should be named and blamed! Let's remember who the real culprits are.

    • Anonymous says:

      the phrase "handling stolen goods" comes to mind, but I know nothing of what actually happened.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good grief! At what age does a "kid" become adult? They drive cars, often have their own kids, and go to foreign countries for education. They accepted  thousands of dollars granted in their name. They are not "kids".

    • Foreign Devil says:

      Should not all these proud parents of these fine scholarship recipients be thrilled to have there little geniuses names published?

    • Anonymous says:

      Rubbish – I am sure it is not the kids who went out on their own to obtain the scholar ship funds but rather the parent(s) of the kids who were pulling the strings……………

      Scholarships should be based on academic or athletic excellence and nothing else!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Come on guys, cut Big Mac some slack! How is he supposed to know how much a year in high school costs?  I mean, if a night in Vegas runs 20 grand, 100k for a whole year of high school sounds quite cheap.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Close off the NBF Completely and let all scholarships go thru the education department which is responsible for scholarship.  This is seen in the same light as the status grants Of 2003.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Keevy wouldn't know proper process if it jumped up and slapped him in the face…which it has!

    He refers to proper process as; "unadultarated beauracratic harrassment".

    He is from the school of thought that says "my way, or no way!" 

    And i'm not saying that people who didn't go far in school can't make a valuable contribution, just that sometimes that contribution is to "listen and learn"! before making decisions.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Premier Mclaughlin for correcting this situation.

    However it doesn't go far enough! This should cause new charges of misuse of public funds!

  9. Kato says:

    Just to add to my earlier comments, then government has the nerve to increase taxes because they are broke. Guess why you are broke?

    Mr. Premier we want justice!

  10. SKEPTICAL says:

    The money is one issue, and huge in it's implications. However, at least as big an issue is what exam results/qualifications are these scholarship students achieving. There must be some prerequisite demanding a minimum standard of academic performance.

    • Anonymous says:

      There should be a minimum standard of academic qualification but I bet there isn't. A lot of kids lost their maximum of CI$20,000 per year, when they didn't maintain their grades. I doubt that happened to any of the NBF recipients.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Post their names like how they posted the names of the people who wasn’t paying pension etc, bracka

  12. Anonymous says:

    "The audit also revealed that twenty-five students receiving cash from the NBF scholarships are receiving an Education Council scholarship as well. Nine of the fund recipients are also receiving a scholarship from the Ministry of Tourism and at least two were found to be getting cash from all three government departments".

    This is what is wrong with a lot of people, they are totally dishonest. Those who received these scholarships from multiple departments should be made to repay it. Release the names. 


  13. Anonymous says:

    Unless there are medical reasons for the funding, the identities of the recipients of public fiunds for education do not constitute private information in the context of an FOI. 

  14. Anonymous says:

    I hear a brother and sister combined received over $100K

  15. A NON I MUS says:

    The parents of these kids knew it was wrong to take this money and these kids were not ten years old so I say make them pay back everything above and beyond the grant limit. Then use that to help other needy students. Unscrupulous Devious Philanderers `

  16. Anonymous says:

    I know of at least one student who is the daughter of one of the statutory heads earning more than 140k a year who is also on a scholarship paid for by the public purse, right position right connections cronyism at its best.

  17. Anonymous says:

    This publicity is only adding legitimacy to Bushey's deeds. Let's hope Alden does something as good for the little man.

  18. Kato says:

    Isn't this stealing? If so, the parents should pay every cent that is over the correct allotted amount for scholarships and if they do not pay, then they should go to Northward. 

    This is so wrong on so many levels.

    1. We teach our children it's ok to be rewarded more than the kid next door because we are affiliated to a political party. Not on grades or hard work.

    2. Isn't this a form of buying votes? If so, Baines an investigation is a must!

    3. What makes your child better than mine?

    Prison I say and if we need bigger prisons, let's build them and make an example out of them. So sick of the white collar political crimes that are always swept under the rug.this is wrong and an injustice to the whole scholarship program. 

    I guess I will see them in church professing their hands are all cleaned!

  19. Anonymous says:


  20. Anonymous says:

    It is so sad to see what party politics can lead to and supporters who have failed to admit this was wrong.

    These students should be named.

    When students received scholarships based  on merit they were proud to have names AND pictures in the news.

    Does seem odd that parents and students feel there is something wrong in being identified as recipients of money from the public to assist students who deserve the help. Are we sure the students feel ashamed? It was probably not their decision to seek and accept the funds but merely to take advantage of an opportunity to further their education.

    If Premier Alden feels there is something wrong in publishing the names and we support that decision, aren't we saying all politicians can do as they feel with public funds, especially if used primarily for their supporters?

    Mr. Premier, thanks for exposing the discrepancy and putting the recipients on same procedure and policy as set out in the education department's scholarships and now forget the politics and print the names of these deserving scholarship recipients.


    Time to be transparent in all areas and this is an example of another opportunity for the PPM to show the difference.


  21. Anonymous says:

    While I am glad this (and all other related Big Mac DIRT) has all come to light, it leaves me wondering what happens to the students that are the recipients of these funds? By that I mean those that are already ACTUALLY attending college/university and excelling in their classes/subjects? Now, what a tragedy for them to have had their funding suddenly jipped from ahead of next semester? Where do they go if their family (in some cases single parent families) cannot afford to come up with the difference in funds? What is the current Government going to do to avoid them becoming college/university drop outs? How is this fair to the un-wealthy student who in reality has no political affiliation, but instead is a high academic achiever and wants nothing more than what was offered to them? I know one of these recipients personally – and I would hate to see them going from being on their school's Dean's list to becoming a drop out. Just wish I was wealthy enough to sponsor him the difference. Hmmm.

    • Anonymous says:

      Completely agree with you. I too, know someone who may be affected by this although this person doesn't have political association. Just caught in the middle of a PPM vs UDP fight. 

      It may be a case where making changes for the future while honoring commitment of the past is the right thing to do. 

      Also, how come the government can cancel those scholarship at whim, since I believe a written commitment was signed??

      Don't get me wrong, it's completely unfair that some are getting huge sums while others are not. But the best way forward could be to make changes for a better sholarship program  for the future instead of the old political game of revisiting every deal made by the previous administration. IMHO.

    • Another Anon says:

      I'll tell you what they can do. They can go out and get a part time job like most students in the REAL world. I often worked 8 -10 hour shifts 5 days a week and still managed to get university degree with fairly decent grades. The hard work and sacrifices didn't kill me, but taught me valuable lessons. 

    • Anonymous says:

      They can get a student loan just like most college students do…

      • Anonymous says:

        Exactly, my sons got the Education schloarship because they worked hard in school and made good grades.  They then got loans to pay the rest and worked on all school holidays as well.

        • Anonymous says:

          DUH – That's the same thing this recipient did! He got good grades in high school, so he received said scholarship. I can only speak on his behalf, and I am not at all saying the same goes for all of the recipients. And um, there's nothing lavish about how his college time has been, but hey – you know what they say about assuming. It makes an a$$ out of YOU, not me! LoL!

    • Anonymous says:

      ummm! I have an idea!!  those students could give up the lavish life style, sale your big time car, share apartment, just like any other student on gov't scholarship does!!!!

  22. Anonymous says:

    WHERE is the list of names. CNS? Mr. Premier? Anyone? The public needs to see and MUST see where OUR money has been spent. This is a travesty of justice and honesty.

    CNS: The premier did not name names in the LA despite threatening to do so and previous FOI requests made by CNS and others regarding Nation Building Fund donations, including scholarships, were all fully redacted because personal information is exempt under the FOI Law.


    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks CNS but in my opinion this isn't personal. It's not as though the money came out of McKeevas pocket… came out of the Treasury which has as its shareholders, the citizens of this country. This is a National issue and a National disgrace and I implore and beg Alden to do the HONOURABLE thing and make the names known. They are using MY money to get an education while I and MANY OTHERS are struggling to pay our mortgages, light bills etc through sweat and tears at work. This cannot be right that the FOI Law would hide this on the basis that it's personal. To close, if the names aren't released, then I want some financial assistance from the fund as I am unable to meet my monthly financial obligations therefore I am unable to contribute to the building of this nation. SHAME ON EVERYONE IF THE NAMES AREN'T MADE PUBLIC!

    • Anonymous says:

      How did the Port have all the receipents listed then?

  23. Anonymous says:

    Eton costs less than these high school fees. 

  24. Anonymous says:

    McKeeva must think that the word "audit" is a four letter word.

  25. Foreign Devil says:

    I, as a tax paying member of the public would like to know who my money is sending to school.

    • Gut Check says:

      I would also.   I don't believe that the students, nor their families should be raked over the coals, regardless of the perceived connection (or not) of former Premier Bush;   the recipients are just trying to make their way with the tenuous familial connections afforded them,  true to Caymanian tradition. 


      I want to see the names, and what they did with their scholarship, but not to chastise, just to know. 


      I think future awards should be evaluated based upon a fair criteria — applied equally to all eligible recipients.    

  26. Anonymous says:

    Can't blame the recipients- being in the right place at the right time

    • Anonymous says:

      Like if a door falls open on the back of a bank truck and money blows all over the road? Free money?  Like that you mean?

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you think that would be a good excuse if you received stolen goods?

    • Anonymous says:

      The recipients is just as dishonest as the one giving it.  People told me to apply for the NBF and I said, "no".  They are still fixing people's houses and adding extensions to people houses who never got any hurricane damage.