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CMU changes tune on Reid’s party

Published:Thursday | May 30, 2019 | 12:18 AM

The Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) did an about-face yesterday and acknowledged at the weekly Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) meeting that it had paid $674,000 towards a party for discarded Education Minister Ruel Reid, which was held aboard a yacht in the Kingston Harbour.

CMU President Professor Fritz Pinnock was forced yesterday to explain his description of the party as an “industry function” at a previous sitting after documents submitted to the PAAC showed that he was aware that it was organised by a group that called itself ‘Friends of Ruel Reid’ to recognise the former minister’s achievements.

According to the documents, CMU paid B&D Trawling $160,000 to rent the Caribbean Queen yacht for four hours, while DEC Events was paid $514,930 to “enhance specific areas with fabric, accessories, and props”, among other things.

But Pinnock, in his second appearance before the PAAC in three weeks, sought to clarify that the payments were made against a US$8,300 debt CMU owed to one of the organisers of the party.

According to Pinnock, the debt was incurred in January 2017 after the event organiser, identified as US-based Jamaican businessman Balfour Peart, picked up the tab for ground transportation and logistics support for CMU’s team to the World University Cheerleading Competition in the United States.

“Having thought to the outstanding amount owed to Mr Peart, CMI advanced funds totalling $674,930 to cover the payments to the vendors it has engaged in providing services for the industry event,” CMU explained in the documents submitted to the PAAC.

PAAC Chairman Dr Wykeham McNeill was not amused by the new revelations, which he said could have been made at the May 15 PAAC meeting when Pinnock was first asked about the party.

“It was incumbent on you to clarify, at that point, that you were, in fact, involved, even if you were going to disclaim and said it was not a party,” McNeil said.