Thu | Jul 2, 2020

No contract for CMU $701m building, says project manager

Published:Wednesday | June 3, 2020 | 12:28 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

PROJECT MANAGER at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), Elaine Hayden, told a parliamentary oversight committee on Tuesday that her reputation would “take a beating” after admitting that she had no evidence to substantiate that there was a contract between the institution and Business Supply Source (BSS), or Logistics Company 1.

“... At the end of the day, I have a responsibility to come and speak to my actions,” Hayden told members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) now reviewing the Auditor General’s special report into allegations of malpractices at the CMU.

The project manager was responding to queries from committee member Lisa Hanna, who raised questions about her involvement as project manager in the nearly US$1-million arrangement to procure material for a J$701-million, three-storey student block at the CMU main’s campus in east Kingston.

“There is no contract that I am aware of. When I requested the contract, it wasn’t .... once it went to the procurement committee, the norm is that it goes to the Office of the President to sign off and then contract arrangements are handled there – I have not seen the contract.

“I do not know if one exists. When I requested it, there was none,” she told the committee.

Hayden said she reported directly to Fritz Pinnock, the embattled president of the university who is on leave and facing corruption charges linked to the CMU. Resigned education minister Ruel Reid, his wife Sharen, daughter Sharelle, and Brown’s Town division Councillor Kim Brown-Lawrence are also facing fraud-related charges.

FOLLOWING ORDERS

The project manager, who has been working at the institution from 2014, said she had to follow instructions or would be deemed insubordinate.

However, Hanna questioned whether she was willing to carry out instructions that were not in keeping with government guidelines or to secure her reputation.

“I kinda feel sorry for you because this don’t look good,” said Hanna.

“My contract comes to an end shortly and I am not sure I’m going to renew it,” Hayden added.

In an education ministry response to issues raised in the auditor general’s report, the CMU said it accepted that an error was made when the full payment of US$621,000 was made to Logistics Company 1 two days after the procurement committee gave its approval.

“They now are aware that this project should have been submitted through the necessary stages up to the offices of the Cabinet for the necessary approval and, upon approval, a contract as specified in the procurement guidelines 2015, as well as the securing of a bank guarantee/letter of credit to secure the university’s interest, should have been undertaken,” the CMU said.

Further, the CMU stated that it was now aware that “there is a 57 per cent variation for this project which is also a breach based on the allowable amount stated in the procurement guidelines. It must be noted that the procurement of high beams, etc., for US$368,000 also indicated a breach in the procurement guidelines”.

Asked to comment on the issue, acting Permanent Secretary Dr Grace McLean said: “I am not in possession of a contract.”

“There is an invoice that went to Treasury and the amounts were paid two days after the procurement committee had approved, so we have not been able to put our hands on a contract that would have guided the process with Logistics Company 1,” she said.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com