Fri | Oct 18, 2019

Reid’s driver paid $720,000 in four months - DPP expected to rule on education ministry probe today

Published:Thursday | July 18, 2019 | 12:13 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Ruel Reid
Ruel Reid

The Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) has admitted to making payments totaling more than $700,000 over a four-month period on invoices in the name of Devon McQueen, the former driver to sacked Education Minister Ruel Reid.

According to the CMU, the first payment of $330,000 was made on January 26 last year, followed by two payments of $30,000 on February 23 and March 28, respectively. The final payment of $330,000 was made on April 26, CMU said.

The scandal-scarred university disclosed yesterday that the invoices were for “transportation services”, but said it could not provide details at this time.

“We are unable to provide further details as the documentation in relation to the above payments is with the Financial Investigations Division,” the CMU said in a report submitted to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament.

The FID is leading a multi-agency investigation into allegations of impropriety at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and several agencies that fall under its remit. The ministry was headed by Reid before Prime Minister Andrew Holness asked him to resign in March.

Paula Llewellyn, the nation’s chief prosecutor, has already indicated that she will give investigators her ruling today on whether Reid should face criminal charges.

The report to the PAAC was in response to questions posed earlier this month by Opposition member of the committee Mikael Phillips about whether McQueen was hired by CMU to supply meals under the Career Advancement Programme-Youth Empowerment Solutions (CAP-YES) project.

The CAP-YES programme is an initiative that targets at-risk youth in hotspot communities across several parishes.

The CMU confirmed that McQueen was employed as Reid’s driver from March 10, 2016 to March 9, 2018, and was seconded from Jamaica College to the education ministry, but insisted that he was not contracted to provide meals under the CAP-YES project.

The university again insisted that the Hydel Group of Schools was not responsible for implementing any of the programmes under the CAP-YES project that were funded by HEART Trust/NTA or any other programmes.

CMU Chairman Hyacinth Bennett is also the founder of the Hydel Group of Schools.

The east Kingston-based institution reiterated that it rented facilities at Hydel such as classrooms, office space, furniture and stationery for delivery of the CAP-YES project. Hydel was paid $9,000 per student or a total of $2.2 million for the duration of the arrangement, CMU confirmed.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com