More questions in maelstrom of allegations against CMU

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, July 11, 2019

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MORE questions were raised yesterday at the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) about the contracting to Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) of another person believed to be an employee of former education minister Ruel Reid.

The former minister is at the centre of a criminal investigation involving the education ministry, and the CMU.

Manchester North Western Member of Parliament (MP) Mikael Phillips submitted a list of questions seeking clarity on whether a man believed to be Reid's former driver was also hired to provide meals for students of the Career Advancement Programme Youth Employment Solution (CAPYES), which is administered by the CMU in Kingston and St Catherine.

St Catherine South MP Fitz Jackson has also inquired as to whether the man was also employed to Jamaica College while contracted to the CMU. Reid is the former principal of that all-boys' secondary school.

This is the third individual reportedly employed to the former minister who has been brought into question in the maelstrom of allegations of corruption which have enveloped the central ministry and the CMU over the past several months.

Phillips also wanted confirmation of Hyacinth Bennett's chairmanship of the CMU's council, and whether the university had given the Hydell Group of schools any of the CAPYES to implement. Bennett is the head of the group of schools.

In addition, Phillips questioned whether the CMU had paid the travel expenses for its president, Professor Fritz Pinnock, and other executives to attend the Education and Help Foundation Launch overseas in 2018.

At its meeting last week with officials of the education ministry and head of the CMU, the committee learnt that a second household helper of the former minister was contracted to the CMU to provide services, while still being paid by the ministry.

It was previously disclosed that another of Reid's household help had acted as a third party to an overseas-based consultant, Gail Dunwell Campbell, to receive millions in payments from the CMU, on her behalf.

Reid, a senator at the time, and endorsed in 2018 as the Jamaica Labour Party's new caretaker for St Ann North Western, was suddenly ejected from the portfolio by Prime Minister Andrew Holness this March.

Since then, the Financial Investigation Division has been leading police investigations, which are now under way at both the Ministry of Education and the CMU.

On Friday, days after more details of the link between employees assigned to Reid and the CMU emerged, the university announced that Professor Pinnock had taken a voluntary leave of absence from his position as head of the institution, against the background of the ongoing investigations.

In his letter to the university advising that he was embarking on six weeks' leave, Pinnock stated: “Many things have been said in the public domain, especially in the media about your institution and I want you to know that, to date, nothing has been found to substantiate the level of sensationalism and unfair statements being said by prominent figures in our society”.

He reiterated that the CMU has been compliant with the demands of the investigation and has provided everything that has been requested to advance the probe.

Pinnock said his leave of absence would ensure transparency and retain the integrity of the university.

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