In the National Assembly |16 June 2021
R58.97 million spent from Covid-19 Fund
A sum of R58.97 million has been spent from the Covid-19 Fund up to May 28, 2021 and the current balance stands at R19.74 million, Minister Naadir Hassan has told the National Assembly.
Also in the Assembly yesterday, Education Minister, Dr Justin Valentin, gave details about his ministry’s plans following a question on reforms in education by MNA for Anse Royale Sylvanne Lemiel.
Minister for Finance, Economic Planning and Trade Naadir Hassan gave those details while answering a Private Notice question by leader of the opposition Sebastien Pillay who wanted details about the expenses made from the fund set up last year by President Wavel Ramkalawan, the fund’s current balance, the donors among other information. Minister Hassan informed Assembly members that the current balance of the fund stands at R19.74 million.
He explained that the biggest expense is a sum of R52.34 million which has been spent on consumables including extraction machine kits, consumables for Covid-19 tests, isolation gowns and face masks. Another R2.8 million went to expenses related to isolation centres.
Meanwhile, Minister Hassan has pointed out that most expenses for isolation centres including administrative expenses amounting to R11.7 million up to June 1, 2021, are being funded from the Contingency Fund.
R2.5 million went to pay for compensation for ex-Unemployment Relief Scheme (URS) employees working with the Health Care Agency, R465.661 has been used to pay retired nurses from the private sector to assist the Health Care Agency, R812,941 has gone to other expenses like the purchase of laptops for contact tracing and training.
Minister Hassan said his ministry would circulate during the day, yesterday, the list of expenses as well as the terms of reference of the Covid-19 Fund among National Assembly members.
Furthermore, Minister Hassan noted that until May 31, 2021 a sum of R78.71 million has been collected in the fund. Minister Hassan also informed Assembly members that as per its terms of reference, the Covid-19 Fund will be audited by the Auditor General and the auditor’s report will be made public.
Additionally, he noted that the expenses will also be published after the 2021 mid-year review and the first publication is expected before July 15, 2021 and it will include all expenses made until June 30, 2021.
With regard to the procedures to verify all donations and approve expenses under the fund, Minister Hassan explained that all existing procurement laws and procedures are being followed and all the expenses are being scrutinised by the Health Care Agency before all related documents are sent to the finance ministry for payment.
“Donations are made either directly to the fund or by cheques addressed to the finance ministry which are later deposited to the Central Bank. All due diligence is carried out by commercial banks or the Central Bank as the law requires,” he explained.
In a supplementary question Mr Pillay wanted clarification on the fact that he stated that on April 29, 2021 on the State House website the balance of the Fund that was posted as R78.258.764 which showed that there was a little more than R78 million in the fund. He wanted Minister Hassan to confirm that since April 29 up to now only a little less than R500,000 has been deposited in the fund contrary to information on the website that many people were contributing to the fund. He also wanted to know if all the money being donated were going through the Central Bank or the finance ministry or whether there were donations which are being transferred from other countries other than Seychelles and also the different procedures being used to administer the fund and who are the authorised signatories of the fund and who verifies the expenses.
Minister Hassan first confirmed the R500,000 which he stated that the larger part of the money was donated before the stated period. The minister went on to add that many of the donors want to remain anonymous and as for the money transferred, he said this is done through the CBS account and some originate domestically while others are from abroad. With regard to procedure to approve expenses under the fund, Minister Hassan explained that there are terms of reference which guide these procedures.
“All the expenses originate from the Health Care Agency which also approves the expenses through its administrative procedures before the payment requests are sent to the finance ministry where five persons are authorised to sign the approval for payments and they are the secretary of state, principal secretary, comptroller general, deputy comptroller general and director for public budget management,” said Minister Hassan.
To ensure clarity on the matter the deputy chief executive of Health Care Agency, Kathleen Cécile, further explained the existing procedures.
Meanwhile, there was also a question as to why additional expenses by the Health Care Agency and the Public Health Authority were not being made under their budget approved by the National Assembly which was a considerable amount to help manage the Covid-19 situation. Minister Hassan noted that expenses to manage Covid-19 are very high especially PPEs which are very expensive taking the expenses higher than the cost budgeted in the 2021 budget.
“The cost that falls way above the 2021 budget are taken care of through the Covid-19 fund,” Minister Hassan explained.
Minister Hassan has also explained that money collected from the sale of Covid-19 tests to visitors and travellers collected so far has amounted to around R16 million which does not go back to the Covid-19 fund but to the Consolidated fund of the government.
Seypec will continue absorbing fuel costs for Praslin and La Digue
Minister Hassan has also confirmed that the Seychelles Petroleum Company (Seypec) will continue to subsidise fuel costs for Praslin and La Digue when answering an urgent question on the matter by MNA for Baie Ste Anne Churchill Gill.
Minister Hassan said for instance the value of subsidy for Praslin for the year 2020 amounted to R22 million while for La Digue it amounted to R4.5 million.
Taking into consideration capital expenses as well as operation expenses for the two stations on Praslin and La Digue to ensure they maintain safety and environmental standards, the government will continue to maintain the cost for the two islands similar to that on Mahé.
Mr Gill welcomed the decision and affirmed that it is very encouraging and a great relief for inhabitants of the two islands that Seypec is maintaining its costs similar to those on Mahé and he expressed the hope that this support continues in the future as there is a need for this kind of support for inhabitants of the two islands.
New plan proposed in education ministry’s operations
Education Minister, Dr Justin Valentin, has said he is spearheading the reorganisation of the ministry’s priorities and the way it delivers its different services. He said he has proposed a fundamental change on the way the ministry will operate so it can better respond to its different needs and services.
He explained that the plan has received the support of senior education officials and has been shared by the directors of all institutions and their school councils.
Minister Valentin noted that unfortunately the second phase of the plan has been delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic but he has expressed the hope that very soon they will be able to engage parents, students, teachers, the private sector and other national organisations in the implementation of the new plan.
“We have agreed to use the media to share the ministry’s new engagement as we have already disseminated the ministry’s plan relating to the modernisation concerning technology,” said Minister Valentin.
The theme of the plan is ‘Raise the aspiration and ensure that the results of learning are useful and make sense’. Minister Valentin went on to say that education is focused on students’ learning.
He added that the plan he is proposing will also focus on raising the aspirations of other key actors so they too give a helping hand in raising the aspirations of students with the aim of bringing a greater and more direct impact on learning.
He added that the plan is directly linked to the government’s manifesto while at the same time it is taking into account important elements that already exist in the Ministry of Education that were being used to stimulate a more intellectual and relevant atmosphere..
He said the six objectives that he wants to push forward are as follows:
- ensure an education system which is relevant, at the highest level and at the reach of all children from all strata of society,
- explore the possibility to establish different school models in Seychelles,
- ensure success and achievements of all students,
- ensure that all Seychellois have the knowledge, are competent to work and function,
- ensure complete development for all children,
- promote policy development based on evidence.
Minister Valentin went on to say that based on the performance of education in the past and on the level of performance that he wishes to see, he has also established a series of specific targets which are related to: learning, that children are always well surrounded by specialised teachers, that the percentage in international examinations performances increase, that professional centres do not place emphasis on academic performance only, and that more talented Seychellois join the education system.
Minister Valentin went on to explain how he plans to accomplish his plans and targets and this through six focus areas as follows ‒ governance and management, teaching, learning, discipline, technology and collaboration.