Mon | Feb 24, 2020

CMU axe to fall - PM hints senior managers may face chopping block amid scandal

Published:Wednesday | January 29, 2020 | 12:32 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Holness
Holness

Quizzed about what action will be taken against current senior managers at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) who played a role in the spending spree and wanton breaches of government rules, Prime Minister Andrew Holness acknowledged that there was need for reform in the management structure at the scandal-scarred institution.

Mikael Phillips, member of parliament for Manchester North West, yesterday asked the prime minister what steps would be taken against senior managers who made decisions that breached procurement rules and established guidelines.

In his response, Holness said while he believed that “we should have a new slate of management as soon as possible”, there was an administrative process that had to be followed. “We can’t just dismiss like that,” Holness declared when pressed on the matter.

The questions come against the background of the prime minister’s statement in Parliament yesterday in response to the Auditor General’s Department’s Special Audit Report on allegations of malpractices at the CMU.

According to Phillips, in relation to governance issues at the CMU, the former president was not the only one fingered in the scathing report on the operations of the tertiary institution.

“If we are going to talk about dealing with governance issues at the CMU, there are others who have been put in senior positions now who have been complicit with a lot of what has been happening,” Phillips said.

While conceding that the questions posed by Phillips and other lawmakers were valid, Holness said that he was significantly constrained in his response.

“I totally agree with the public perception that you would need, especially at the senior level ... , but the point of fact is that we have to follow procedure.

“The CMU Act limits us as to what we can do and who is actually appointed,” he said.

When asked to identify the person or persons who approved questionable spending, the prime minister said that he had to be cautious in providing answers without first having the permanent secretary examine them so as not to breach judicial consideration.

CMU President Fritz Pinnock, who has been cited in the auditor general’s report for making decisions that undermined his fiduciary responsibility to the university while breaching the human-resource policy, is before the court facing corruption charges.

FULL DISCLOSURE

Opposition Spokesman on Education Peter Bunting tabled questions for the prime minister to answer in three weeks.

Bunting wants the prime minister to disclose the names of all the persons who were responsible for awarding the contracts at the CMU and those who received contracts in excess of one million dollars.

He also urged Holness to share with the country the non-disclosure agreement that was required to be signed by members of the CMU Council and to state which other agencies in the education ministry, or any other government department, imposed that obligation on oversight bodies.

Bunting also questioned whether buildings owned by senior officials at the CMU and the ministry were used to house CMU students who were transported to the campus daily by buses owned or contracted by the university.

It is alleged that a senior technocrat from the education ministry is related to an official from the CMU who owns the buildings.

Earlier during the question-and-answer, the prime minister told his parliamentary colleagues that he had asked Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte to look into the legality of non-disclosure agreements in the public sector. He argued that public boards operate in the public interest and should not withhold information in the public interest. He indicated that steps would be taken to end this practice.

Holness also used the opportunity to announce that the long-awaited parliamentary oversight committee for the Integrity Commission would be named early in the new legislative year.

New CMU board

1. Professor Gordon Shirley – Chairman.

2. Prof Ibrahim Ajagunna – Acting president, ex officio.

3. Professor Noel Brown – Deputy to the president, CMU.

4. Devon Gardner – University treasurer, ex officio.

5. Kerry-Ann Tulloch – President, alumni association, ex officio.

6. Glenardo Simpson – president, students’ union, ex officio.

7. Dwain Powell – rep, Port Authority.

8. Belinda Ward – Rep, Port Authority.

9. Kim Clarke – Rep, Shipping Association of Jamaica.

10. Trevor Riley – Rep, Shipping Association of Jamaica.

11. Dr Donovan Stanberry – Registrar, UWI.

12. Dr Therese Chambers – Assoc professor, UTech.

13. Mark Hart – President, Port Handlers Ltd.

14. Rear Admiral Peter Brady – Managing director, Maritime Authority of Jamaica.

15. Dr Marshall Hall– Chairman, Jamaica Producers Association.

16. Donovan Perkins– Director, Everything Fresh Limited

17. Mitzie Gordon Burke-Green – President, Customs Brokers & Freight Forwarders Association of Jamaica.

18. Grantley Stephenson – Deputy chair, Kingston Wharves Limited.

19. Peter McCarthy – Rep, Deans, CMU.

20. Worrel Morrison – Rep, admin/technical staff, CMU.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com