Wednesday 30 September, 2020

Bunting wants CMU's Board to account for 'lack of oversight'

Peter Bunting

Peter Bunting

Jamaican taxpayers are entitled to a “full accounting” of the stewardship of the Board (Council) of the scandal-tainted Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), according to Peter Bunting, the Shadow Minister on Education and Training.

“Silence on the part of resigned Board members is not acceptable,” Bunting said in a statement on Monday.

The Opposition spokesman said he was looking forward to engaging the members of the Board at the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), with a view to determining how they exercised oversight of the institution.

Bunting’s statement follows media reports on the troubling findings of the Auditor General’s Department into the operations of the Palisadoes-based University whose president, Professor Fritz Pinnock, is before the court on multiple fraud charges.

Also before the court in the related multi-million dollar scandal, is former Minister of Education Ruel Reid, his wife Sharen, daughter Sharrelle and Kim Brown-Lawrence, the Jamaica Labour Party councillor for the Brown’s Town division of the St Ann Municipal Corporation. The five are booked to return to court on Thursday.

Bunting noted that reports so far highlight a situation of “systemic and sustained abuse of public trust as well as severe dereliction of duty on the part of the Council that has been charged with the task of providing governance and oversight,” at the CMU.

He has also expressed “deep consternation” at the series of reports.

He said the concerns arising from the Auditor General’s report and the lack of fiduciary oversight also has implications for the reputation and effective functioning of CMU.

“The institution has been deeply tainted by these developments and the confidence the general public will have in the institution is likely to become impaired,” Bunting argued.

He said the developments at the CMU are not isolated in terms of challenges facing the education sector. He pointed to several other developments which he said warrant focused leadership and further examination. These include:  

*The non-appointment of a Minister of Education 10 months after Ruel Reid was fired.

* Ongoing tensions at the Edna Manley College and the “unfair treatment” of its principal.

* The migration of teachers from the classroom, particularly in the areas of mathematics and the sciences and the absence of a satisfactory explanation for the government’s decision to cut the funding that was earmarked to provide scholarships for in-service teachers in these disciplines to upgrade their skills.

Bunting said it was also regrettable and unlawful by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pearnel Charles, to withhold the Auditor General’s report from Parliament while parts of the report are leaked to the media. 

“This is another departure from the tradition of impartiality by the Speaker which is important to the proper functioning of Parliament,” Bunting said.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the CMU Council, Hyacinth Bennett has resigned and there are reports that other members have either resigned or have indicated that they will be doing so in the wake of the damning AG's report.

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