Court orders scholarship winner to repay State $3 million

Monday, March 14, 2016 - 20:00

A national scholarship winner who did not return to T&T after completing his studies in medicine to give back service has been ordered to repay over $3 million to the Government. 

High Court Judge Nadia Kangaloo made the order against Dr Ryan Wellington yesterday after he failed to attend the start of the civil trial brought by the Office of the Attorney General.

Although Wellington, who resides overseas, was represented by an attorney who requested an adjournment, Kangaloo denied the application and ruled that Wellington had sufficient notice of the case and entered judgment against him. 

In a press release issued yesterday, the Education Ministry stated that the outcome would serve as a strong reminder to other scholarship winners who chose to breach their agreements with the Government.

During a press conference at the Ministry of Education, St Clair, yesterday, Education Minister Anthony Garcia described Wellington as an “errant former student” who failed to meet his legal obligations.

He revealed that the matter had been brought before the court through the Office of the Attorney General and that there was a second matter still before the court as the State sought to “recover” monies spent on scholarship awardees who had failed to satisfy the terms and conditions of the contract.

Garcia warned that Cabinet had taken a very “serious view” of such people. 

“The Government invests considerable sums of taxpayers’ money in order to provide scholars with the opportunity to fulfill their higher education dreams and as such, they ought to provide the obligatory service or repay the monies loaned to them should they be unable to provide such service,” the ministry release stated. 

According to the Education Ministry, which recently took control of the administration of scholarships from the Ministry of Public Administration, Wellington signed an agreement after being awarded an open scholarship in 2003 to obtain a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) at the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin, Ireland. 

For the five years of his studies the Government paid Wellington’s tuition fees and he was given textbook and personal maintenance allowances. 

Under the agreement, Wellington and other scholars are required to repay the Government if they fail to work in T&T for the period of their foreign studies.

Kangaloo ordered that Wellington repay the $1,734,994.30 expended by the Government on his studies in addition to $1,328,764.64 in interest calculated at the rate of 7.75 per cent from the date of his graduation. 

The judge also ordered him to pay legal costs incurred by the State in the sum of $194,227.98. 

She granted a stay or execution of her decision until April 15 in the event Wellington challenges her decision.

In January, Education Minister Anthony Garcia announced that Government was considering cutting the number of scholarships awarded annually by 15 per cent to about 400 annually. 

The Government was represented by Lesley Ann Lucky-Samaroo, Nadine Nabie, Cherisse Nixon and Kendra Mark. 

Lucky-Samaroo informed the court a substantial portion of Government scholarship funds has been expended on medical students and the State had suffered loss and damage due to non-compliance by scholars.

The T&T Guardian understands the State is currently negotiating with other scholarship winners who have agreed to reimburse the State.

SOURCE: (Derek Achong)