Education Minister Costas Kadis said on Thursday his ministry was looking at all aspects of a letter from Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides, asking him to set the record straight on dubious practices in state schools that were costing the state millions.
Kadis said that his ministry would respond as soon as possible and that it respected and would take into account the recommendations and suggestions of the audit service.
In the letter, Michaelides said he had identified certain goings on in state schools that were costing the state money without good reason, like exemptions from teaching hours, which between 2003 and 2004 amounted to the working hours for the year of 554 full-time educators. This cost the state almost €11 million.
The auditor-general had also said there was no justification for the practice that the more years a teacher had been working, the less teaching hours they needed to put in. He added that the education ministry was delaying in complying with, and implementing the audit service’s recommendations.
“The issues raised by the auditor-general in his letter […] concern policies implemented by the education ministry for years. For most of these issues, the respective ministers have responded and presented their views,” Kadis said.
In fact, he said, in the latest report the ministry submitted to the House watchdog committee, “several of the issues raised by the auditor-general have been substantiated”.
The ministry follows the procedure laid down for the staffing of the education system, which includes calculation of needs in human educational resources on the basis of its policies. These needs, he said are evaluated and approved by the department of Public Administration and Personnel, including the necessary budget, which is also then approved by the House of Representatives.
“With the approval of the budget, the legislative body basically approves the policies contained in the budget,” Kadis said.
As to exemptions from teaching hours, he said, some have been established by decisions taken at cabinet level. “Others are applicable after agreements made between ministers and educational organisations,” he said.
“Following the letter of the auditor-general, the ministry will request the opinion of the Legal Service as to the level at which a decision should be taken – minister, cabinet, parliament – on the implementation of a policy on exemptions of educators from teaching time,” Kadis said.
Based on the answers it will receive, he said, the ministry will evaluate all non-statutory exceptions with the help of an expert, to be able to justify any decisions it may have to take to rationalise its policies.
“In the case this results in savings, the ministry will use them for the implementation/strengthening of its policies, aiming to upgrade our educational system,” Kadis said.