Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter
The Ministry of Education has ordered a probe into the governance and financial management of the University of Technology (UTech).
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites told The Gleaner that a special advisory committee has been set up by the Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission to review a number of issues which saw the academic and administrative staff unions staging two protests last month.
The academic and administrative staff had voiced their displeasure over the management of the university's funds and employment irregularities.
The allegations were strongly denied by the UTech's top brass, who classified the staff's grouses as a misunderstanding.
However, Thwaites said after consulting with both the university's management and staff, they were unable to reach any agreement.
"We sought to help the parties get together, but they are unable to see through their own difficulties, so we had to step in and offer this sort of assistance," Thwaites said.
The committee, which will be headed by Ambassador Derick Heaven, chairman of the Sugar Industry Authority, is expected to investigate a number of allegations, including union claims that in one year, the government-funded university moved from a surplus of more than $500 million to a deficit of more than $100 million.
The UTech's vice-president for planning and operations, Professor Kofi Nkrumah-Young, refuted this claim. He noted that at the end of financial year 2012-2013, the UTech had amassed a $22-million surplus.
The secretary of the UTech Academic Staff Union, Meredith Williams, said the union was pleased with this latest development and was looking forward to the committee's conclusions.
"Whether we are proven right or wrong, either way, we await the outcome because it will be good for the university," Williams said.
Nkrumah-Young shared similar sentiments, noting that the setting up of the committee was an excellent idea.
In addition to Heaven and Nkrumah-Young, the other members of the committee are former Financial Secretary Shirley Tyndale, and Olabusola Akinladejo, president of the University of Technology Academic Staff Association.