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Executive Director of the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Eduardo Ali.

While the Accreditation Council (ACTT) grapples with a lack of parliamentary-approved regulations and accountability, the State body may soon cease operations as it runs out of funds.ACTT Executive Director Dr Eduardo Ali told the Joint Select Committee of the Local Authorities, Service Commissions and Statutory Authorities ( Including THA) that their accounts cannot cover salaries and rentals. Yesterday’s inquiry looked into the efficiency and effectiveness of the ACTT, which included management from the Omardeen’s School of Accounting and the Professional Institute of Marketing and Business Studies (PIMBS)“We’ve got an increase by two million but bear in mind, that is still not covering our salaries and our rentals. We have other expenses that we do not have funds for. We’ve been utilising our reserves and if we continue at the rate we are, we will not be able to sustain our operations in a month or two from now. It is that serious,” Ali said.During the inquiries, PIMBS’ chairman Frank Cowie reminded the JSC that the ACTT was responsible for providing audited financial statements annually. However, since its inception, this has not been done.Ali said that the Auditor General’s Department (AGD) is responsible for auditing the ACTT. However, that relationship is between the Ministry of Education and the (AGD), who also has the authority to contract an external firm when necessary. Emily Pascall, Director of Finance and Administration further explained that in 2017, correspondences from the AGD stated that it did not have sufficient personnel to carry out the audit. Therefore, PricewaterhouseCoopers was hired to look into the ACTT’s books from 2010 to 2016.But while the ACTT sorts out itself, Cowie said a lack of regulations in the State body has affected PIMBS. For 2020, PIMBS has no tertiary level students. Omardeen’s closed its door in 2018. Cowie said that in seeking verification on whether their institution was registered, the response by the ACTT was so tardy, that it affected PIMBS bottom-line.“Things like our registration certificate. When we get it, it comes after the period has ended and we would have missed the opportunity to work with students during that period. If the ACTT get assistance to put regulations in place, we will be aware of what is required and things will be clear as we go forward. We feel that in the absence of regulations, we are operating with a moving goal post,” Cowie said.But for Omardeen’s, which opened in 1978, the cost of moving and getting statutory approvals for ACTT evaluations has led to its closure. Idrees Omardeen told the JSC that in 2005 when the ACTT was taking over some responsibility of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education, management was told that for their institution to be approved for GATE funding, they would need to show all statutory approvals. But this proved difficult as Omardeen explained that many private tertiary education institutions were renting buildings and oftentimes, the owners would not bear the cost of getting statutory approvals. It meant that they had to move their schools, which was costly.But after years of doing all of this, they were informed by an ACTT member that statutory approvals were not needed for the ACTT evaluation and that they “wasted their money”. Between 2010-2016, Omardeen sought information from the ACTT as to when the policy was changed, but only got it under the Freedom of Information Act. This showed that the policy was changed since September 21, 2006. He told the JSC that had there been a level playing field, his school might have been opened today.JSC member Esmond Ford read figures, which started six of 13 campuses that applied did not have five statutory approvals necessary for the ACTT’s criteria for registration. Yet, they were registered and approved.Omardeen also urged the ACTT to look into the safety of the premises of the schools they accredit.