One parliamentarian described the CMU situation as a cesspool, after the discovery of further connections between persons paid by the institution and former Education Minister Ruel Reid.
On Wednesday, members of parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) were told that that Maureen Blake, while still being paid by the Ministry of Education, was contracted by the CMU to provide services along with councillor for the Brown’s Town Division Kim Brown Lawrence and a St Ann company.
In addition, CMU partnered with a St. Ann-based company, Optimum, which delivered the programme, while the university provided curriculum support, nutrition and certification.
This is the second helper attached to rthe former minister that is being linked to the CMU saga, as another of Reid’s helpers, Doreen Miller, was said to have received millions after payments by the CMU made to consultant Gail Dunwell Campbell were diverted to her.
As PAAC member Mikael Phillips questioned permanent secretary Dr. Grace McLean about persons subcontracted by Optimum to provide the meals, Dr. Pinnock admitted that "Optimum actually did the arrangement but CMU paid directly to the caterers."
Two of the caterers were identified as Maureen Blake and Kim Brown Lawrence, who is also councillor for the Brown's Town division.
Dr. McLean revealed that Ms Blake had also been employed through the Education Ministry as a helper for Mr. Reid.
A Radio Jamaica report quoted Mr. Phillips as saying that the situation raised several red flags, especially because Optimum is based in St. Ann where Mr. Reid was caretaker candidate for North West St. Ann and because the other individuals involved were so closely connected to him.
It was also revealed that the former education minister is the business partner of the same man from abroad who the CMU said asked it to pay for services for a party for Mr. Reid.
CMU had come under scrutiny after it was revealed at a previous PAAC sitting, that Peart was linked to a $674,930 CMU payment towards a yacht party hosted in Reid’s honour. However, the CMU president said the CMU made the payments to settle a debt owed to Balford Peart.
Dr. Pinnock described Mr. Peart as a CMU partner, but PAAC member Mikael Phillips questioned the association.
"I am not convinced that Mr. Peart himself just wantonly became a partner of the CMU because the same Mr. Peart is a director and shareholder of a company that is registered here in Jamaica with Mr. Ruel Reid also as a partner and director of that said company, and that company was registered in March of 2016, just one month after the general elections and it is so convenient that Mr. Peart becomes a partner of CMU around the same time," he reasoned.
Dr. Pinnock said he did not know about the connection between Mr. Reid and Mr. Peart.
Baltree Investment Company Limited was incorporated one month after the last general election, with Reid listed as a director, along with former Munro College schoolmate Balford Peart, Carolyn Foster, and Sharon Thomas-Reid listed as directors.
Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary in the Education Ministry, Dr. Grace McLean, on Wednesday stated that an almost $15 million payment by the CMU to a third party was contrary to the ministry's policies.
At the last sitting of the PAAC it was revealed that last year, a CMU consultant, Gail Campbell Dunwell, submitted invoices totalling US$114,722 for reimbursable expenses, but asked that some of the payments be made to a Doreen Miller.
Dr. McLean said this was unusual because "based on the systems at the ministry, we do not usually honour a third party in this way. So the payment is usually linked to the person's TRN number, which goes on to the system and of course, as we're aware, all payments go through the Accountant General."
PAAC member Phillip Paulwell said the committee should ensure its recommendations address this breach.
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