CMU saga deepens

Council says probe uncovers employment breaches

BY VERNON DAVIDSON
Executive editor - publications
davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, July 11, 2019

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THE Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) Council has reported that it was not notified about the engagement of four individuals, including former Jamaica Labour Party caretaker Othniel Lawrence, consultant Gail Campbell-Dunwell, and a company as the saga embroiling the State-owned entity continues to deepen.

The council made the revelation in a report of its investigation into allegations of mismanagement/misappropriation of funds, impropriety and nepotism made against CMU, which has so far resulted in a decision by CMU President Fritz Pinnock to go on leave.

Former Education Minster Senator Ruel Reid was sacked after investigations began in agencies of the Ministry of Education.

According to the report, seen by the Jamaica Observer, “a small team from the council” conducted the “independent investigation” at the request of the chairman after a special meeting of the council on March 25 at which the allegations were discussed.

The initial focus of the investigation, conducted between March 26 and April 8, related to:

1. The process employed in the engagement of Sharen Reid, wife of Ruel Reid;

2. The processes employed in the engagement of Lawrence;

3. The nature of Lawrence's engagement and contractual obligations;

4. The processes employed in the engagement of Campbell-Dunwell;

5. The nature of Campbell-Dunwell's engagement and contractual obligations;

6. The construction of a residence of a CMU senior official, and its relationship with the CMU building projects;

7. The funds provided for the construction of schools; and

8. Any other matter re contracts, employment, finances, or procurement processes.

In relation to Lawrence, who was employed as as independent advisor at an annual salary of $5.1 million over three years, the council said that, while a signed agreement for his services is on file, “signatures are not witnessed” and the council “was not notified” of his engagement.

The council also reported that there was no clear process on Lawrence's engagement or selection as an advisor, neither was there written rationale or protocol for his selection.

The report stated that, while deliverables described as “Work Product” to be delivered by the advisor should be evidenced by quarterly reports on work done for the previous quarter, there was no evidence of deliverables that can be substantiated.

The council said it was advised by Pinnock that Lawrence's engagement was based on an identified need for specialist support in the Faculty of Advanced Skills and Professional Development. However, “The committee has not seen any documentary evidence to support this.”

The report also stated that group life and health insurance provided to Lawrence and his family was not substantiated in the employment agreement.

In relation to Campbell-Dunwell, the report stated that signatures on her contract were not witnessed, and the contract was not submitted to the council for approval. In addition, the council said it was unclear as to whom she directly reports.

Noting that Campbell-Dunwell's contract was for payment of US$155,000 over a 24-month period, the council said it was awaiting documentary evidence of the funds raised and received to date from her activities.

Pinnock has defended Campbell-Dunwell's contract, telling the Public Accounts and Appropriations Committee earlier this year that she has delivered value for money.

Regarding the other two individuals and the company, while the council said it had no documentary evidence of the process used to procure their services, the Observer learnt last night from a member of the board that the council was satisfied that they were performing as per their contracts.

In relation to the employment of Reid's wife, the council said: “From all indications, Sharen Reid produced the required deliverables and her performance has been deemed satisfactory as evidenced by performance appraisals from her direct supervisor.”

Regarding the construction of a residence of a CMU official, the council said it is still investigating the allegations to determine whether or not CMU resources and personnel were utilised.

In relation to monies received for the construction of schools, the council said its probe uncovered no breaches; however, it has mandated the CMU's projects officer to provide a list of projects since 2016, the source of funding for each project, and the status of each project.

Yesterday, the Observer learnt that the previous council was unceremoniously disbanded in January 2018 by Reid, who announced the appointment of a new council on April 25. However, the new council was not called to a meeting until the end of June. “The next council meeting was called by the chairman in November 2018, so over the course of a year the council met only twice,” a source close to the CMU said.

In the report on its investigation the council recommended that:

1. No press releases should be sent to the media without the council's approval.

2. The university should desist, with immediate effect, the process of hiring persons before a contract and detailed terms of reference are in place.

3. All contracts should be submitted to the Legal Department for review and preparation of final draft.

4. There needs to be an immediate review of the records management system.

5. All matters regarding contracts and the engagement of consultants should come to the council for ratification and approval.

6. The budget for international conferences should be presented to the council for review and approval.

7. There needs to be a clear system that the director of finance/treasurer/bursar engages for the payment of contracts.

8. The council needs a full list of all CMU affiliated companies and to be briefed on how they were constituted.

9. All contracts, including those of the consultants, should reside in the Legal Department and/or Human Resource Department.

10. All bank accounts be managed through the formal financial system of the CMU and included in the audit process.


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