Sunday 27 September, 2020

Speaker Charles bows to pressure on tabling of AG’s report on CMU

House Speaker, Pearnel Charles Snr

House Speaker, Pearnel Charles Snr

After being told in no uncertain manner that neither he nor the Government he represents has any constitutional authority to delay or prevent the tabling in Parliament of a report from the Auditor General’s (AG) Department, House Speaker, Pearnel Charles Snr, has indicated that the AG’s report on the state of affairs at the scandal-hit Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) will be tabled at next Tuesday’s sitting of the House of Representatives.

The document was reportedly at Gordon House when Parliament resumed sittings on Tuesday after the Christmas break, but Charles decided not to have it tabled.

In fact, he was reportedly caught on an open microphone while in conversation with House Leader, Karl Samuda, saying: “Mi nah lay it tiday (today). Mi not laying it tiday…”

After being roundly criticised by the parliamentary Opposition and corruption watchdog, National Integrity Action (NIA), Charles released a statement on Thursday, indicating that the document will be tabled next Tuesday.

“I wish to clarify information placed in the public domain concerning the tabling of a particular auditor general’s report in Parliament.

“Any exchange on the matter should not be construed as reluctance to table the report,” said Charles in the statement from the Houses of Parliament.

When he was questioned on the matter by Leader of Opposition Business in the House, Dr Morais Guy, during Tuesday’s sitting of the House, Charles said he would table the document once he received it.

The NIA, in a statement on Thursday, said there is nothing in the constitution which provides for any discretion as to whether the speaker can put or not put on hold, or hold up, the laying of an auditor general’s report properly submitted for tabling in the House of Representatives.

“Moreover, after careful scrutiny, we are unable to find any precedent under successive JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) or PNP (People’s National Party) administrations, where a house speaker delayed, on his own discretion, the tabling of an auditor general’s report,” the NIA added.

For its part, the PNP in a statement, said “The failure to table the Auditor General’s Special Report on the CMU is a disturbing development, and signals the continuation of the Administration’s effort to cover up the corrupt practices within the Government in general, and at the institution in particular.”

The CMU has found itself at the centre of the scandal that brought down former Education Minister, Ruel Reid. Both Reid and President of the CMU, Professor Fritz Pinnock, have been arrested and slapped with multiple corruption and fraud-related charges for their alleged parts in what is believed to have been a scheme which investigators said involves some $56 million.

Reid’s wife, Sharen, daughter, Sharrelle, and Kim Brown-Lawrence, the JLP Councillor for the Brown’s Town Division of the St Ann Municipal Corporation, have also been arrested. All five are on bail and are scheduled to return to court later this month.

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