Parliamentary committee shelves CMU probe

Senior staff reporter

Friday, October 11, 2019

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PARLIAMENT'S Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) has decided to end any further probe into activities of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) and the Ministry of Education, which the police have now linked in a multimillion- dollar corruption matter allegedly involving former education minister Ruel Reid and head of the university, Professor Fritz Pinnock.

The two had their houses raided on Wednesday, in a joint operation of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, the Financial Investigations Division of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, and the Constabulary Financial Unit of the Counter- Terrorism and Organised Crime Division, and are now facing criminal charges with multimillion- dollar bail bonds offered in court yesterday, when they appeared to answer to the charges.

Reid's wife, Sharen, and daughter Sharelle, have also been charged, as well as Kim Brown Lawrence, councillor for the Brown's Town division in St Ann North Western, the constituency where Reid was last year endorsed as the Jamaica Labour Party's new caretaker.

Chairman of the PAAC Dr Wykeham McNeill told the Jamaica Observer yesterday, “We had invited CMU and the MoE (Ministry of Education) next week, but as it is sub judice in a real way now, we wouldn't proceed with them as it could prejudice the case.”

The allegations of corruption surfaced in March after Prime Minister Andrew Holness expelled Reid from the Cabinet. At a subsequent meeting of the PAAC in May, Pinnock denied allegations of misuse of funds at the CMU in connection with non-portfolio activities involving Reid, and suggested that the investigations were “tantamount to harassment” in some instances.

Facing the PAAC then, along with officials of the education ministry, the HEART Trust/ NTA, and the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning, Dr Pinnock said: “I will state categorically that CMU did not host any birthday parties for the minister. What you saw was an industry function that includes members of the tertiary sector that were there…CMU does not pay for birthday parties.”

In the meantime, Dr McNeill said that the work of the parliamentary committee will continue, as it will proceed with the questions asked of the Ministry of Energy regarding Petrojam, and National Energy Solutions Limited.

Dr McNeill said the PAAC also expects to get answers to outstanding questions about the $430-million police used car fiasco. “I would seek the advice of committee re: reports already submitted, if they should be tabled or not,” he said.

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