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UTech VP raps special committee report

Tuesday, March 11, 2014    

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DR Kofi Nkrumah-Young, vice-president of planning and operations at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), did not sign the report of the four-member Special Advisory Committee which has recommended the replacement of the university's president, Professor Errol Morrison.

At the same time, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites yesterday asked the university's governing council to implement recommendations of the special advisory committee which recently completed investigations into the causes of disharmony at the St Andrew-based institution.

Copies of the report issued yesterday by the committee, chaired by former Member of Parliament and Ambassador to London Derick Heaven, said it found overlapping of responsibilities, a loose pension system, the need to restructure the council, fiduciary and procurement issues, violations of the legal and regulatory framework, and the need for increased government control over the activities of the university.

Dr Nkrumah-Young issued a minority response to the committee's findings, which did not mention the issue of the proposal to remove Morrison, but stated his position on several of the findings, including those on the appointment of officials and senior staff.

He said that in terms of the appointment of an acting deputy president, the university's policy has no constraint on who is allowed to act.

"The practice has always been that for acting appointments, someone from the existing staff is selected to ensure continuity of work. For the permanent filling of the vacancy, the post is advertised internally and externally," he said.

"To support the practice of selection of persons and compensation for acting, there are policies, and those have not been breached," he stated in a response to the report of the Special Advisory Committee circulated to the media.

In terms of the appointment of a principal for the western campus, Dr Nkrumah-Young said that it is an acting appointment in an interim situation, where the incumbent was seconded as a pioneer to assist in establishing the work of the university to the west.

"How else could this be done when the work is only beginning and the full implications of the scope of responsibilities are not yet determined?" Nkrumah-Young noted.

He said that the western campus is still in evolution and is being guided by a senior member of the academic staff.

"Its modus operandi is still unsettled. At this point the coordinator is regarded as a pioneer and carries the academic title of acting principal," Nkrumah-Young said.

In terms of the appointment of someone delisted from the New York bar, Nkrumah-Young explained that the university was advised by senior legal counsel that, although the person was delisted from practising as a lawyer, such delisting could not be extended to teaching.

"This is because the duties involved in teaching in no way converged or overlapped with the cause for his being delisted," he explained.

"If the university should exclude this individual on the basis that is mentioned, then it would set a precedent and could lead to the termination of other members of staff, if they were previously accused of an offence, whether or not such accusation relates to their duty to teach," he pointed out.

On the appointment of associate vice-presidents, Dr Nkrumah-Young said that the appointments were approved by the University Council's Appointments and Promotions Committee, which is empowered by the council to make such appointments.

He said that in terms of the appointment of an 80-year-old professor, this resulted from a "head hunting exercise" to recruit an anatomist to support the programme in dentistry.

"This is an extremely scarce skill and the one recruited was the only one in the Caribbean. He was charged with the task to transfer such skills to a younger employee. This was done and the octogenarian left the university in December 2013," Nkrumah-Young said.

He added that, at no time, previously, was the matter brought to the management's attention as a concern by any staff association.

"The university therefore rejects the notion that 'there was no effort to deal with this in a non-contentious manner'," he said.

Dr Nkrumah-Young was a member of the special advisory committee but did not sign the report as he did not support some of the findings.

The other members of the committee, which was formed to probe allegations of bad governance at the university made by the staff association, were former Financial Secretary Shirley Tyndale and UTech staff association representative, Olubusola Akinladejo.

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