The corruption charges filed against the following individuals is a big step in a story that has captured the imagination of the Jamaican public since March this year.
- Ruel Reid, former Minister of Education, Youth and Information
- Fritz Pinnock, President of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU). [Reid and Pinnock are charged with conspiracy to defraud, possession of criminal property, engaging in a transaction involving criminal property, misconduct in public office and corruption.]
- Sharen Thomas-Reid (Ruel’s wife), Manager, Legal Affairs Dept (CMU)
- Sharelle Reid (daughter of Ruel & Sharelle )
- Kim Brown Lawrence, JLP Councillor for the Brown Town Division. [Sharelle, Sharon and Kim are all charged with possession of criminal property and conspiracy to defraud.]
The court was told that $50 million was defrauded from the CMU and $1 million was defrauded from the Ministry of Education. All five accused are next to appear in court January 23rd 2020.
According to the Jamaica Gleaner Brown-Lawrence has since come out swinging via social media… “When the truth comes out about April-November last year 2018, you are going to say ‘then a dat deh dem kick off the women door and frighten her kids dem fa 5 a.m. (sic)’,” ……Just sit back and watch the process cause a BOMB AGO DROP,”
In light of these major developments…..
- Will Prime Minister Andrew Holness finally announce a permanent Minster of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI)? Since Reid was fired earlier this year, Holness took on the role of acting minister with his cabinet colleague Karl Samuda overseeing the day to day activities of those portfolios. At age 79, Samuda must be coming to the end of his long political career. But when you assess the talent pool of potential candidates that Holness could choose from the options are limited for all sorts of reasons. e.g. competence, age and tarnished reputation. Hence the appointment of Robert Morgan as Reid’s replacement in the Senate was a missed opportunity by Holness to fill the vacancy with a new minister of education. Edmund Bartlett or Juliet Holness would be decent options to replace Samuda permanently.
- In order to avoid possible further embarrassment from the CMU scandal will PM Andrew Holness call the general elections before January 23rd 2020? Highly likely.
- Will Dean Roy Bernard be allowed to return to his former post of Permanent Secretary of MOEYI? Bernard was unceremoniously transferred out in February – when Reid was still minister – to a non existent post at the Ministry of Finance. Bernard legally challenged the government’s decision citing his reassignment was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court this month granted Bernard leave to return to his former post with immediate effect. Grace McLean had replaced Bernard at MOEYI in February in an acting capacity. But the government announced in the summer McLean’s permanent appointment to the position but reverted to “acting” when Bernard challenged the decision in the courts. Karl Samuda is eager to keep McLean.
- Will the authorities force either Grace McLean or her husband move out of the education sector? I doubt it but they should. Grace McLean is the most senior civil servant at the Ministry of Education and her husband, Eron McLean, is a vice president at the CMU. There is long standing strict public sector guidelines which prevents close relations from being employed in senior positions within the same government sector. As Dean Roy Bernard told the Gleaner in July “She (Grace 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”. Such conflicts of interest tends to be common practice and goes largely ignored by both PNP & JLP administrations. The Public Service Commission and various public sector boards should start taking a much tougher line on such nepotism.
- Why was Sharen Thomas-Reid not removed from the CMU at the same time when her husband was fired by Holness in March? The public learnt from the court hearing last week that Thomas-Reid was still employed at CMU but the judge suggested she not return to the CMU for the foreseeable future. It is an indictment of the MOEYI, CMU board and the government not to have placed Sharen Reid on garden leave the minute the CMU scandal was exposed. Again, public service HR rules should have prevented Thomas-Reid from working in the same government sector where her husband was the cabinet minister. Holness in particular should have known better and not allow Thomas-Reid’s appointment to the CMU to go forward.
- Will the Council of CMU board resign? You would think so. In light of the allegations of fraud and confirmed inept HR practices at the CMU it is hard to see the board remaining in place. Given the calibre of some members of the Council of CMU, it is hard to believe they were so blindsided by the questionable activities on their watch. e.g. By allowing Pinnock to turn his leave/return-to-work into a merry-go-round on his terms, the board showed a lack of judgement and authority.
- Will the current investigations into the CMU by the Auditor General go on hold until the court proceedings conclude? Hope not. Another reason why a permanent education minister should be in place to take ownership and act upon any findings in the report.
- Should Delroy Chuck (Justice Minister) have resigned over his recent outburst over the raid on the “CMU 5”? Anywhere else Chuck would have had to step down. Eventually Chuck did withdraw his comments after he had earlier condemned the dawn raids by investigators at the accused respective homes. It was not a good look given Chuck’s daughter, Carolyn, is representing the Reid family via the law firm Delroy Chuck & Company. Chuck took leave from his law practice when he was appointed Justice Minister in 2016. The outrage in media circles over Chuck’s comments should have come months earlier.
In July, when the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) told the investigators there was insufficient evidence to mount a viable prosecution, Chuck wrote on social media
“….So far, no one can show that any Minister or anyone close to the Minister has benefited illicitly. If corruption is unjust or illicit enrichment then let some charges be laid – so far, none has been. And, the evidence may well show that no criminal charges can be laid.”
Mr Chuck should have known better and kept one’s counsel given the connections he has to the case and his current sensitive position in public office.
For now let the wheels of Jamaican justice take it’s stormy course.