News

CMU boss extends leave of absence

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

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Embattled Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) President Dr Fritz Pinnock has asked that his leave of absence be extended to September 16, as investigations into allegations of misconduct linked to former education minister Ruel Reid and the university continue, a source close to the institution confirmed yesterday.

Dr Pinnock's leave would have expired on Friday of this week.

On July 5 he advised the CMU board that he had decided to take a six-week leave of absence with immediate effect, in light of the ongoing investigation. He said this was to ensure transparency and retain the integrity of the university.

“This will allow the various investigations in progress time to conclude their findings and recommendations,” he wrote.

Deputy president Professor Ibrahim Ajagunna will continue to act in the post of president until September 13.

Dr Pinnock's decision to take leave came following a legal spat with the Financial Investigations Division (FID) over a reported delay in the submission of documents by the CMU, in relation to the investigations.

Pinnock had intimated that there could be other motives which led to the FID seeking a court order to obtain documents from the university, and that the investigations were bordering on personal and “tantamount to harassment” in some instances.

He denied reports that the investigators were being obstructed, pointing out that the vast majority of the documents had been submitted. “We have complied. There must have been other motives [involved]. It's not that we didn't want to hand over the documents, but the process was irregular. We have seen many times in this country where people's rights are abused. We are challenging the procedural aspect; it's not about the documents,” he told the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament in its deliberations on the matter in June.

The FID had engaged the services of a private counsel, instead of the Attorney General's Chambers.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips raised concerns about media reports that the CMU, in an effort to frustrate the investigation, had hired an attorney to challenge the court orders.

A number of worrying details emerged at several sittings of the PAAC where Dr Pinnock and officials of the education ministry appeared, including a contract between the CMU and a consultant who was paid through a third party personally connected to Reid; the hiring of former Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament Othneil Lawrence for the CMU's at-risk programme, prior to Reid's announcement that he would be running for the seat once held by Lawrence.


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