YESHIVA College has refused a request by the Education Department to return $400,000 in Government funds.
The Bondi Orthodox school was awarded $925,000 by the Federal Government under the Building the Education Revolution (BER) program. That money came with a caveat that it must be used within a specified time frame.
The Association of Independent Schools of NSW (AIS) and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) are now investigating whether the $400,000 already given to the school has been spent, and if so, on what.
While DEEWR has not confirmed it has asked for a refund, college principal Rebbetzin Pnina Feldman said she was not able to give the money back, even though Yeshiva has not built what it had planned to. An electricity company’s plans to build a facility close to the campus left the school¹s building intentions up in the air.
“EnergyAustralia is building a substation within 200 metres of the school, which is considered dangerous, so we can’t build what we were going to because it would be dangerous for the kids,” Rebbetzin Feldman said.
“I went to AIS and asked if we could use the money for something else, but they said no because they said the money was a stimulus for builders, not schools, so there is no point spending the money elsewhere in 2011. They said we had to give the money back or use it on that building, but I don’t want to give the money back because I have already spent a lot of it and if we have to move because of the substation, we need money to relocate.”
AIS executive director Geoff Newcombe said the investigation into Yeshiva is ongoing.
“The matter is in the process of being handed over to DEEWR for further investigation, and we will continue working with the department to assist them in their inquiries,” he told The AJN.
AIS administers the grants on behalf of the Education Department to private schools in the state. Newcomb could not comment further on the specific investigation, but he did explain the circumstances under which a case could be handed over to DEEWR.
“If we conclude that the school is not satisfactorily carrying out all requirements of the agreement, we have the option of terminating the agreement we have with the school and notifying DEEWR, so that they can investigate further as they are the owner of the funds.”
A DEEWR spokesperson confirmed the investigation is currently underway. “The department is currently investigating the use of BER funding by the school, and is working closely with the Association of Independent Schools NSW to ensure it has been appropriately spent,” the spokesperson said.