Professor Fritz Pinnock and Dr. Grace McLean answer questions from PAAC members Fitz Jackson and Mikael Phillips
Controversy is deepening at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) following the revelation on Wednesday that some of the almost $15 million paid to one of its consultants went to a third party who was not connected to the institution.
Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee,(PAAC) was told that last year, the consultant, Gail Campbell Dunwell, submitted invoices totalling US$114,722 for reimbursable expenses.
CMU President Professor Fritz Pinnock was again in the hot seat during Wednesday's sitting of the committee, as members sought answers on the invoices submitted by the consultant.
While being grilled about payments to Mrs Campbell Dunwell, Professor Pinnock was asked by PAAC member Mikael Phillips about instructions issued by the consultant for disbursements to be released to a woman identified as Doreen Miller, who it was revealed, was employed to former Education Minister Ruel Reid as a household helper.
A total of $3,853,500 was reportedly paid out to Ms Miller and a balance of $11,604,750 paid out to Mrs Campbell Dunwell.
More questions were raised about the payments after another PAAC member, Fitz Jackson, tried to ascertain what services Doreen Miller provided under the contractual arrangements with Mrs Campbell Dunwell.
"It varies but it has to do with part of the reimbursables. She (Campbell Dunwell) would have asked that this amount be paid to this account. It's her overall payment," Professor Pinnock responded.
During Wednesday's meeting of the PAAC, the spotlight was also turned on Dr. Grace McLean, acting Permanent Secretary in Education Ministry, after it was revealed that officials of the Ministry organised a surprise birthday party for the CMU president last year.
Asked whether it was normal for the ministry to host surprise birthday parties for heads of agencies and departments within the ministry, Dr. McLean denied it was "normal" but said "from time to time, there are celebratory activities" and from her experience being at the ministry, "we really have not had many celebration for birthday parties."
Questioned specifically about the party for Professor Pinnock, Dr. McLean refuted that it was the ministry that hosted the event, noting that "we actually was asked (sic) - a group of us at the ministry - to organise a surprise party for Mr. Pinnock."
Quoting directly from the email invitation to the party, Mr. Phillips read: "On behalf of Dr. Grace McLean and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, you are being invited to a surprise party for Professor Fritz Pinnock."
He questioned whether the party was similar to the one the CMU admitted helping to organise on behalf of Ruel Reid.
Send CMU officials on leave
Mr. Phillips has recommended that Professor Pinnock and other senior officials at the CMU be sent on leave pending the outcome of investigations.
"Seeing the party by the minister, the party by the ministry... it is a messy affair and it seems like it was a free for all that is involved, and I would prefer to see the intervention, be it that there is a board that manages the CMU... but whoever the minister is...needs to get involved in this," he contended.