A view of a classroom in Gia Nghĩa City in Đắk Nông Province. Many teachers are required to pay back part of the preferential allowance they received last year. VNA/VNS Photo Hưng Thịnh
ĐẮK NÔNG – Nearly 700 teachers in Đắk Nông Province are very concerned, as they have been asked to pay back an allowance totalling VNĐ5.5 billion (US$241,788) by November 29.
The money was wrongly given to teachers in Gia Nghĩa City last year.
The conclusion of the budget management inspection of the provincial Department of Finance showed that Gia Nghĩa City’s People’s Committee had wrongly spent roughly VNĐ5.6 billion (US$246,220) last year.
Of that, VNĐ5.5 billion was spent by the city’s Education and Training Office as an allowance for nearly 700 teachers at 31 public schools in 2020.
The money, which was from the State budget, was allocated to pay allowances according to the Ministry of Education and Training’s regulation No.6 issued on June 5, 2019.
Under the regulations, teachers who work for State-owned preschools and primary schools in disadvantaged areas, mountainous and island areas are given an additional sum of 50 per cent of their salary as an allowance every month.
Those who work for these types of schools in cities and towns receive an additional 35 per cent.
Gia Nghĩa Township was marked as a disadvantaged area until it was upgraded into a city in early January 2020. Teachers in Gia Nghĩa were given an allowance of 50 per cent of their salary since 2005.
That means since 2020, teachers should only receive 35 per cent instead of 50 per cent.
The Department of Finance concluded that all schools spent an excess amount of 15 per cent of the budget and required them to pay the amount back within 30 days.
The amount to be repaid was estimated at VNĐ5.5 billion.
K’Toàng, teacher at Tô Hiệu Primary School in Đắk Nia Commune in Gia Nghĩa City, said he and his colleagues were shocked after being told the amount they would have to pay back.
“We are very shocked. The working conditions are difficult, the traffic remains a challenge and up to 60 per cent of students are from ethnic minorities with financial hardships,” he said.
He said he would have to pay back 15 per cent of the allowance, equivalent to about VNĐ10 million ($439).
A representative of the school said Gia Nghĩa was still a mountainous area with many difficulties. The population was sparse, and with a large number of ethnic minorities.
So, the application of the lower allowance level as that of other better-off cities and towns for Gia Nghĩa was not right, he said.
Phan Thị Hiếu, Deputy Director of the Department of Finance, said all documents of the central government and the provincial authority clearly defined Đắk Nông as a highland province and Gia Nghĩa City as a highland area.
Meanwhile, the regulations did not stipulate the level of allowance for teachers in highland areas. There were only two different allowance levels for plains, cities and towns, and mountainous, islands, and remote areas.
Hiếu said during the inspection process, the inspection team noted many unclear legal terms such as highland and mountainous areas.
Regarding the recovery of allowances for overspending, Hiếu said the schools could spend from their funds and gradually collect the money from teachers’ salaries to avoid impacting their lives.
A representative of the provincial Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee said Gia Nghĩa was identified as a highland area following the committee’s Decision No.172 issued on July 7, 2006.
Since then, there have been no updated documents for the decision, so Gia Nghĩa should be entitled to the same policy.
“Highland areas are the same as mountainous areas and we believe the payment of preferential allowances for teachers in Gia Nghĩa should be applied in the same way as for mountainous areas,” he said.
This is not the first time Đắk Nông Province has had troubles with the application of preferential allowances for teachers in Gia Nghĩa.
In the 2012 - 2013 academic year, the provincial Department of Finance sent a document to relevant ministries to inquire about the application of preferential allowances for teachers in Gia Nghĩa Town.
The official reply from the Ministry of Education and Training and the Ministry of Finance said teachers in Gia Nghĩa would enjoy preferential subsidies for mountainous areas.
The leader of the Office of the National Assembly Delegation and the People's Council of Đắk Nông Province told Việt Nam News Agency that the conclusion of the provincial Department of Finance about the overspending of Gia Nghĩa City was ‘a bit hasty’ as ‘the legal basis was not very clear'.
The provincial People's Council would ask relevant units to clearly report the issue. The Delegation of the National Assembly of Đắk Nông Province would address the issue in the upcoming National Assembly session, he said. VNS