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Education Ministry, HEART Trust employees questioned in relation to Ruel Reid probe

Audrey Sewell, Permanent Secretary in the OPM; Dr. Grace McLean, Permanent Secretary in the Education Ministry; CMU President Professor Fritz Pinnock; PAAC Chairman Dr. Wykeham McNeill; and PAAC member Fitz Jackson
 
Several employees of the Education Ministry and HEART Trust/NTA have been questioned in relation to the probe involving former education minister Ruel Reid.
 
The matter was discussed at Wednesday's meeting of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC).
 
Audrey Sewell, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, said nothing had "come to her attention formally," however, she was told by the head of the HEART Trust/NTA that the Financial Investigations Division (FID) had been asking questions. 
 
Dr. Grace McLean, Permanent Secretary in the Education Ministry, said she as well as staff from her ministry have also been interviewed by various agencies, most notably, the FID.  
 
Last week, Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson revealed that Mr. Reid is now the subject of a criminal investigation.
 
Mr. Reid was asked by the Prime Minister to resign on March 20 amid swirling allegations of corruption at the Ministry of Education and several entities falling under its remit.
 
Lawrence's CMU employment 
 
The engagement of former Jamaica Labour Party MP Othneil Lawrence as a consultant at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) was also under the microscope Wednesday afternoon.
 
There have been questions about Mr. Lawrence's role at the university and how he came to be hired as a consultant.
 
President of the CMU Professor Fritz Pinnock, who was grilled by members of the PAAC, disclosed that Mr. Lawrence is being paid $5.4 million annually for work done under a programme targeting at-risk youth.
 
He said Mr. Lawrence did not apply specifically for that job, however, he had sent his resume to the CMU and "aftter discussions, we thought that maybe it was a good way to try him, based on the challenges we were facing."  
 
PAAC Chairman Dr. Wykeham McNeill noted that many view Mr. Lawrence's employment with suspicion and scepticism, pointing out that "Mr. Lawrence is a former Member of Parliament in a seat in which in which the former Minister of Education had an interest, and there's a general perception that he would have well been recommended by the former minister." 
 
However, Dr. Pinnock insisted that Mr. Lawrence, who has an associate degree, was given the job because of his experience.
 
He argued that Mr. Lawrence, as a former politician, would be better able to deal with at-risk youth than academics employed to the CMU. 
 
Renaming CMU centre? 
 
The Caribbean Maritime University is now considering whether to rename a centre which was named in honour of former technology minister Dr. Andrew Wheatley.
 
The CMU officially opened the Dr. Andrew Wheatley Centre for Digital Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing in November 2017.
 
Last year, CMU President Professor Fritz Pinnock told the media the University would not rename the building despite corruption allegations at several entities for which Dr. Wheatley had oversight and his subsequent resignation.
 
However, on Wednesday, Professor Pinnock revealed renaming is now under consideration and the matter is being discussed. 
 
PAAC members contended that it was irregular to have a building named for a government minister while he is in the post. 
 
Member Fitz Jackson argued that it was imperative not to politicise public institutions and "whenever you are going to do that, there must be a basis that can stand scrutiny and there is some broad consensus on it." 
 
During Wednesday's PAAC meeting, Professor Pinnock also denied claims that the CMU hosted a yacht party for Ruel Reid while he was Education Minister, stating instead that the event was "an industry function which included members of the tertiary sector." 
 


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