PEP & CMU Just Not Adding Up

If Apple Inc. removed its CEO, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Design Officer right in the middle of the launch of a major product, then shares in that company would fall sharply and shareholders would demand immediate answers from the chairman for such major staff upheavals. Such a dramatic shakeup would also affect the credibility of the launch of that new product.

So in Jamaican news that the newly designed Primary Exit Profile (PEP) programme for grade 6 primary school students (aged 11-12) entering high school has had caused controversy is not surprising. The PEP results has been released and has generated mixed reactions from key stakeholders. Some teachers have called out the government for rushing through this new programme.

The big problem on the messaging by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) government on PEP was that those senior figures who championed PEP in its buildup are not the ones speaking today.

  • (March 2019) Ruel Reid was relieved of his duties as Minister of Education,Youth and Information,
  • (February 2019) Floyd Green was transferred from his junior ministerial role supporting Reid to another portfolio and
  • (February 2019) Dean Roy Bernard – the most senior civil servant at the ministry – was transferred to the Ministry of Finance.

Thus their political successors in the government – Karl Samuda (oversight minister) and Alando Terrelonge (junior minister) – have lacked the authority and clarity to speak on PEP. Prime Minister Andrew Holness is currently the Minister of Education but has said very little on PEP.

Approximately 42,000 children sat the exams, 59% were not proficient in mathematics, when proficiency required a grade of between 50 and 79 %.

“An average 40% of students who sat the first Primary Exit Profile (PEP) examinations did not achieve the required competency. The results were particularly poor for Mathematics and Science where more than 50 per cent of the students did not achieve proficiency.” – RJR News Online

But should PEP have gone ahead? Especially as the public first got wind of potential scandals circulating the Ministry of Education Youth and Information (MOEYI) from as far back as the spring of 2018.

Newstalk 93

During a discussion on Newstalk 93’s “The Evening Edition” hosted by Lambert Brown (Opposition senator) on the Petrojam scandal, listeners were forewarned of a much bigger scandal looming at the MOEYI.

Not long after that show was aired “The Evening Edition” was cut, so too all the other political talk-shows on the UWI-funded radio station. The listeners has never had an explanation for this major change at Newstalk 93, but it’s worth noting that a number of contractual staff at the Ministry of Education also presented shows on Newstalk 93.

All this happened around the time when questions were being raised in parliament about the salaries being paid to government advisers – which included some who had shows on Newstalk 93. Programme manager at Newstalk 93 then was Marlon Morgan who is currently senior technical coordinator at MOEYI.

So given the chaos that came from PEP since the results were released, we have to ask if the launch of PEP for grade 6 students was done in the most professional and effective manner.

Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) Scandal Continues to Drip

The saga at the CMU continues and in the past 10 days the public were given some more stunning revelations.

  • In parliament we learnt that two persons linked to the disgraced former minister Ruel Reid had catering contracts from CMU; namely, Maureen Blake (Reid’s former helper) and Kim Brown Lawrence (Councillor in north west St Ann where Reid became the JLP caretaker candidate.)
  • Opposition senator Lambert Brown revealed to the senate that he knew Doreen Miller ( another “household helper” of Ruel Reid) and she denied any involvement in the alleged corruption linked to her name.
  • Fritz Pinnock – the beleaguered president of the CMU – decided to take 6 weeks leave whilst the investigations and probings continue.
  • Doreen Miller spoke to the Sunday Gleaner and revealed more of her banking dealings with a family member of Ruel Reid.
  • Ruel Reid and Balfour Peart were business partners in a company called Baltree Investment along with Reid’s wife, Sharen Thomas-Reid. [Peart indirectly paid for the infamous yacht birthday party for Ruel Reid. Sharen Thomas-Reid also worked at CMU as manager of legal affairs.
  • Ruel Reid’s former driver, Devon McQueen, was mentioned in parliament in relation to catering contracts. But McQueen has spoken to the media (and the police) and feels his name was being misused for scrupulous means by others.
  • Dean-Roy Bernard filed an injunction to prevent any substantive replacement of his post at the MOEYI.

In discussions with the Gleaner, Bernard rejected comments – made by his successor and former colleague Grace McLean – that he had authorized certain payments to CMU.

Bernard told the Gleaner “She (McLean) was intimate with CMU matters. I have no intimacy with CMU matters. She is the chief education officer. She liaises, she oversees Caribbean Maritime University matters,” he said, challenging McLean to produce one shred of evidence that he instructed her to stage the $317,000 party with public funds for Pinnock.”

Bernard has a point. Given Grace McLean’s husband Eron McLean is vice-president of university advancement and development at the CMU. Why would prime minister Holness allow Mrs McLean to have oversight of the CMU given her personal connections there? Mrs McLean worked closely with Holness a decade ago when he was Minister of Education.

But Pinnock may need to be recalled to the PAAC from his leave of absence to answer further questions on the recruitment to the CMU of  Sharen Reid-Thomas as manager of legal affairs and also the hiring of Owen Ellington, commissioner of police until he sensationally retired (at 52) in 2014. Ellington is Director of the Centre for Security, Counter Terrorism and Non-Proliferation and his deputy at CMU is former assistant commissioner, Assan Thompson.

According to Thursday’s Jamaica Observer…
Caribbean Maritime University Council (CMU’s Board) has reported that it was not notified about the engagement of four individuals, including former Jamaica Labour Party caretaker Othniel Lawrence, consultant Gail Campbell-Dunwell, and a company…a small team from the counci” conducted the “independent investigation” at the request of the chairman after a special meeting of the council on March 25 at which the allegations were discussed.”
This report sounds hmmm from the CMU Council given that members of the Council includes CMU staff Fritz Pinnock, Noel Brown, Devon Gardner and Ibrahim Ajagunna (currently acting CMU president in Pinnock’s leave of absence).
This ongoing scandal at CMU makes you wonder if the institution did deserve the university status it gained in 2017. In any scandal that affects an adult educational institutions, tuition fees write-offs always raises its ugly head.
[2015 Auditor General report on CMU when it was known as CMI: “CMI’s receivable management system proved ineffective in collecting outstanding tuition fees. As at March 31, 2015, 3,102 students owed $326.4 million in tuition fees.

 

PAAC- Bipartisanship Can Have Teeth

Credit to the current Public Administration & Appropriations Committee (PAAC) for their sterling work in holding public officials to account. Credit to both the PNP and JLP members who – over the past 18 months – have displayed a desire to get government bodies to spend wisely and deliver best practice.
Let us hope these public bodies (incl. Auditor General) will delve into the operations and processes of other established colleges, universities and education related agencies. Because it cannot just be the CMU that has serious flawed procedures and practices.
These exposures are good for Jamaica and shows that bad practices and poor governance of the public’s money will no longer be tolerated. Long may that continue to be the norm for the PAAC.
More Questions
  • When did the other senior staff members at CMU (incl. acting president Ajagunna) first know about the controversial hirings flagged in the media and parliament?
  • When did the JLP secretariat first become aware that its former caretaker for north west St Ann, Othneil Lawrence, was employed at CMU?
  • Why was Floyd Green moved from his junior ministerial role at the MOEYI? [Green was long regarded in media circles as a rising star destined for the cabinet, but instead he ended up at a much lower profile government department, still a junior minister.]
  • What is the current status of the ‘Ruel Reid Transformational Leadership Scholarship’ valued at $US3 million under the sponsorship of BAU International University in Washington DC?
  • Will Dean-Roy Bernard be asked to appear before the PAAC?
  • Did the set of scandals and bad practices at the Ministry of Education impact negatively on the government’s delivery of PEP?
Auditor General Raised Concerns in 2015
We await further revelations.
But warning signs of poor governance, significant staff failings and resource management inadequacies at CMU (then known as CMI) were flagged by the Auditor General from as far back as late 2015 in the below report.
which included comments such as:
  • “CMI engaged 253 part-time adjunct lecturers at a cost of $135.6 million, without the relevant approval from the Ministry of Finance and Planning”
  • “We found that CMI did not have in place a documented receivables policy in place to properly manage the Institute’s outstanding tuition fees. CMI did not provide any evidence that appropriate steps were taken to recover outstanding fees from delinquent students.”
  • “a review of CMI’s annual customer/student surveys showed students concern regarding perceived weaknesses in the delivery of training offered by their lecturers”
  • “Contrary to Ministry of Finance policy, CMI Board approved the purchase of 13 computer tablets for Board members at a cost of $317,500.”
  • “In March 2014, a student met in an accident while driving one of the entity’s motor vehicles. CMI records indicated that the vehicle was insured for $3.45 million and was assigned to a Senior Lecturer. CMI did not report the accident to the Attorney General, Financial Secretary and the Auditor General”
Yet by 2017 CMI was awarded university status.
Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid (centre) receives a plaque from Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) Chancellor, His Royal Highness Drolor Bosso Adamtey I (left) during the CMU’s 2018 graduation ceremony on Thursday (November 8) at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston. Sharing the moment is University President, Professor Fritz Pinnock. This year, approximately 350 students were conferred with master’s, bachelor’s and associate degrees and diplomas in a wide cross section of programmes.

Captains of genalship? Ruel Reid (centre) & Fritz Pinnock (right)

 

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About africanherbsman1967

Just saying
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