Samuda now education minister as PM gives CMU stamp of approval

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says he is confident in the organisational changes that have been made at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), and that the requisite systems are now in place at the Ministry of Education to provide efficient oversight of the institution’s operations.

“I believe [at] the central ministry the systems are in place to oversee the operations of the CMU, and I believe the CMU [board] now, in terms of unquestioned integrity, knowledge of the field, proven competence, visionary thinking, commitment to Jamaica, I am certain that this is a new CMU — the CMU that will make Jamaica proud of its work,” he said yesterday at his first meeting with the CMU council, which was appointed in 2019 amidst raging allegations of corruption that has continued to dog the university.

Holness said he felt he could now safely turn over the reins of the education portfolio fully to Karl Samuda, who has been in charge of the day-to-day running of the ministry since March last year, following the expulsion of Ruel Reid from the Cabinet, as the scandal deepened.

The former education minister and the CMU president, Professor Fritz Pinnock, are now before the courts on multiple criminal charges.

At the same time, Holness cautioned the Professor Gordon Shirley-led board that the CMU is not yet out of the woods, insisting that it is still at a critical stage as the auditor general’s special report on the institution is still being combed through by one of the financial oversight committees of Parliament.

What the CMU has to do is provide information, respond as much as you can. It is a difficult process, [so] you have a task, over a long period of time, to change the perspective and the views on the organisation,” he advised.

The auditor general’s report is before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Samuda was appointed minister without portfolio for education, with the prime minister holding the substantive post as education minister. There have been numerous calls from the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party, and other interest groups for the appointment of a “full” education minister.

Holness stressed that while Samuda had the responsibility for the daily management of the ministry, for those areas which posed a challenge, it had required the “direct and deliberate” attention of the prime minister “to ensure that the organisational, institutional change that should be effected, was effected. So I worked in the background to ensure that we not just had a council, but the necessary structural organisational changes in other areas of the ministry itself, to ensure that the ministry itself was strong enough to supervise this institution”.

He said the situation was now at a stage where the ministry can now be completely run by Samuda, who will oversee all areas of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.

Prime Minister Holness, in naming the new board of the institution in January, said based on the governance issues raised by the auditor general, the council would need to move quickly to put in place the relevant subcommittees, including a new finance committee, to streamline financial operations.

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