(CNS): Richard Parchment, the former chief political assistant to McKeeva Bush when he was premier, has admitted that his daughter was one of only a handful of Caymanian students who received annual scholarship grants worth more than $60,000 from the Nation Building Fund to play basketball. Appearing as a witness before the Public Accounts Committee last week as members scrutinised the auditor general’s report on the controversial fund, Parchment said his daughter had received $69k to attend IMG Academy.
Angry, as he believed he had been singled out, Parchment launched into a statement before he was asked any questions by the committee members.
He said that the report was critical of the premier and his chief of staff but he was not mentioned directly and he was not a civil servant at that time. He questioned why no other private sector people or parents had been called to the PAC and implied that his daughter had been singled out, not just in the report but in the Legislative Assembly by the premier, who had named her. Parchment said none of the other 184 students who received scholarships from the NBF were ever named, including the other athletes who received larger grants to go to the same sports college in Florida.
As one of two rising basketball stars in Cayman in 2012, he said, his daughter and another young student were offered scholarships after being invited to attend the international college following a summer camp.
“The initial requests to support these two student athletes did not come directly from parents but were submitted by the technical directors of basketball and sports because of the talent level … and their acceptance at the world class institution,” he said. “Because of my connection to the office I did not participate in the application process.”
Parchment also revealed that a third student athlete also applied and was granted a scholarship at a later date.
Parchment said that Leonard Dilbert, who was Bush’s chief of staff and the co-ordinator of the fund, had created a rigorous selection process, a claim that was in stark contrast to the report by the Office of the Auditor General. Maintaining that the only thing he did was sign the scholarship form, he said that the NBF was down to Cabinet and the Legislative Assembly members, who approved the budget amounts in Finance Committee, and that parents or private citizens should not be held responsible. He said he was not involved in the policy creation and had nothing to do with the decision making process.
When Parchment finished his statement, PA Chair Ezzard Miller pointed out that he had not been called because he was a parent but because of his potential role in assisting people to apply for the Nation Building Fund grants and setting appointments with the premier.
But Parchment said he did not introduce people, particularly regarding the fund, to meet with the premier though his job was facilitating access to Bush in general. He said his role was limited to a number of occasions when he communicated with a parent or a pastor regarding approval of grants.
The grants for the sports college were more than three times the annual amount that students who received scholarship from the Education Council get for all study. The OAG report also found that, in addition to the excessive scholarships given to just 42 students, there were significant concerns that the institutions were not properly checked out and students were not held accountable.