Friday 27 November, 2020

Golding wants 'questionable' CMU contracts terminated

Mark Golding

Mark Golding

Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Mark Golding wants the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) to terminate contracts it issued under “questionable circumstances.”

According to Golding, this should be done in light of the turmoil facing the CMU amidst “serious corruption-related criminal charges brought against both its former portfolio minister, Ruel Reid, and the President of the institution, Professor Fritz Pinnock.

Golding, in a statement issued Thursday, said he has noted recent media reports that, based on legal advice received from three sources, the CMU was unable to terminate a controversial contract granted to a former parliamentarian.

The former parliamentarian referred to is the former Member of Parliament for North West St Ann, Othniel Lawrence. Opposition members of Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) were taken aback on Wednesday when told that the $5.4 million-a-year contract for Lawrence was still in force.

The acting CMU President, Ibrahim Ajagunna, told the PAAC that Lawrence’s contract was the only one of its kind at the institution. He said it would be difficult to terminate without opening up the University to litigation.

“It is very difficult for that contract to be terminated without the University incurring additional liability…the legal opinion is that we may have to allow the contract to ride out itself,” Ajagunna said.

But this explanation has not gone down well with Golding who stated: “It is offensive to public sensibilities that contracts that have been granted in circumstances like these are allowed to run their course and the contracting parties are allowed to continue to reap the contractual benefits…”

Meanwhile, Golding has called for an immediate amendment to the Integrity Commission Act to allow the Commission to declare a contract with a public body to be null and void if the Commission is satisfied that it is tainted by any act of corruption.

“Upon such a declaration being made, the public body should be required by law to cease and desist from making further payments and otherwise giving effect to the contract. Furthermore, benefits already received should become liable to be disgorged by an order made on application to the court by the Commission or the public body which has incurred the cost of conferring benefits under the contract,” said Golding.

The shadow finance minister said any contracting party or affected third party should be entitled to apply to the court for relief from the effects of such a declaration, and the court should be able to make whatever order is required in the interest of justice, taking into account the overriding objectives of the Integrity Commission Act and any repercussions arising from the contract being terminated.

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