Mon | Apr 6, 2020

Not Ruel’s man - CMU’s Pinnock denies chairmanship of Reid foundation as corruption probe deepens

Published:Monday | March 25, 2019 | 12:18 AM
In this September 19, 2018 photograph, Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre), then Education Minister Ruel Reid (left), and Professor Fritz Pinnock, president of the Caribbean Maritime University, participate in an opening ceremony in Kingston.

Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) President Fritz Pinnock has distanced himself from Cabinet discard Ruel Reid, denying allegations that he holds chairmanship of a fundraising foundation linked to the former education minister, who was sacked amid swirling allegations of corruption engulfing agencies under his purview.

“I was off the island on company business, and on my return, I became aware that several questions were raised about my actions and my involvement as chairman of a particular foundation. I wish to place on record that I am not the chairman of the foundation in question nor any other foundation of that nature,” said Pinnock in a statement released to the press yesterday evening.

CMU defended its hiring policy, saying it was not influenced by family ties or political allegiance.

“We are aware that there have been specific concerns raised about the employment of certain individuals because of their political allegiance or because of their family members. We wish to state categorically that the CMU takes neither into account in its recruitment process. We are an equal-opportunity employer,” the institution said.

Further, CMU acknowledged that it is the subject of an investigation by “the relevant authorities” and that it has generated “some anxiety” among students, staff and partners, but said “we stand by the integrity of our brand”.

The Gleaner first reported that among the issues under scrutiny by investigators is a $5.5-million contract CMU reportedly signed with former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Member of Parliament for North West St Ann, Othneil Lawrence, to serve as an “adviser” to its president, Dr Fritz Pinnock.

The contract was reportedly signed on April 1 last year.

Nearly two months after the contract was signed, sacked Education Minister Ruel Reid was confirmed by the JLP’s central executive committee as constituency caretaker for North West St Ann, replacing Lawrence.

Calls to Pinnock’s phone for further details went unanswered yesterday.

The university said it could not comment on the allegations of impropriety but insisted that it would continue to provide the highest standard of education, certification, and training for the benefit of Jamaicans, and people across the Caribbean and the rest of the world.

business as usual

The institution asserted that the ongoing probe does not impact its university status, accreditation of programmes or the certification of current or former students.

As a result, CMU said its academic calendar would continue as scheduled “unless otherwise advised”.

People’s National Party Opposition Spokesman on Education Ronald Thwaites is expected to host a press conference Monday morning where he will fire off a slew of questions regarding CMU and its association with Reid.

He is expected to query whether the Ministry of Education or any of its agencies was contracted with the CMU or any affiliated agency for the construction of school infrastructure and whether tendering and procurement protocol was observed.

The Gleaner understands that Thwaites will also question whether any vehicles or other property belonging to CMU or the HEART Trust/NTA were made available to Reid, at no cost, outside of his official duties as minister of education, and whether any member of the minister’s family has been employed to CMU or any other agency of the Ministry of Education.