CMU Contract Puzzle Baffles PAAC

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The Chairman of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) describes the CMU Contract controversy as a “messy affair.”  Revelations on Wednesday, June 12, 2019, outlines a troubling scenario surrounding the contracts issued to a US-based Jamaican consultant. The PAAC was shocked and amazed that the CMU paid Doreen Miller, a third party, just under J$4.0 million for work Gail Campbell Dunwell, the consultant, did.

A Little Under J$4.0 Paid to “Household Helper”

The amazing revelation by Professor Fritz Pinnock, head of the CMU, was that Miller was not an integral figure in the work performed by the consultant. Rather, the PAAC confirmed that she was the household help to the former Minister of Education, Youth, and Information (MOEYI) Ruel Reid. That the amount involved is a little under J$4.0 million is stunning enough. The shocker, however, was that the CMU had already paid the bulk of the contract to Campbell Dunwell; just a year inside her two-year contract.

As the CMU President explains it, the entity awarded Gail Campbell Dunwell a two-year contract valuing J$20.0 million. This contract is to raise funds from international institutions. By the end of the first year of her contract, however, Campbell Dunwell received just under J$15.0 million.

Three-Quarters of Two-Year Contract Sum Paid within One Year

Documents submitted to the PAAC show that Campbell Dunwell’s contract took effect on January 12, 2018. Yet, a mere nine days after contract signature, the consultant presented her first invoice of J$396,500 (US$3,050). Alarmingly, by February 25 of the same year, the consultant had pulled in J$11.0 million or US$86,188 for services rendered. Furthermore, the significant portion of this amount (J$9.1 million or US$70,000) was paid on six invoices all dated February 20, 2018. Her final invoice dated December 4, 2018, valued J$188,240 or US$1,448.

Professor Pinnock sought to explain that many of the projects for which the CMU paid the consultant started in 2017. Furthermore, these pre-existing projects account for the huge payments that CMU within mere months after the contract became effective.

“Well, the whole arrangement, initially, we were looking for a total of US$2 million … in grant funding, etc, etc. But when you write grant funding, you load up in the earlier part of the agreement, but the results would come a year, year and a half later,” Pinnock said.

According to the CMU president, the entity would not have entered into that agreement until it is sure that funds would have started to come into its coffers. “To get grant funding, you have to get into people’s budget, so those would start from the previous year,” he explained.

Consultant Raised Money for CMU

According to Pinnock, the CMU reaped a total of US$374,170 (around J$49.0 million) in grants and donations through the consultant’s efforts.  Pinnock sought to explain that the contract sum of US$114,000 was the maximum amount for the life of the contract to the consultant. When pressed by the PAAC Acting Chairman Mickael Phillips whether he would have paid the total amount of the contract within the first year, Pinnock responded in the affirmative. However, Pinnock’s response did not sit well with Phillips.

Another Contract with the Education Ministry

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary of the Education Ministry, Dr. Grace McLean revealed that Gail Campbell Dunwell also had a contract with that Ministry. The contract, valued at J$3.5 million per annum, was for consultancy work for the National Education Trust (NET). The Permanent Secretary, however, told the PAAC that the Ministry suspended the contract with NET. This suspension was pending legal advice which the ministry is awaiting from the Attorney General’s Chambers.

Surprise Birthday Party Spending

The Education Ministry’s Permanent Secretary also came under fire for revelations that the Ministry hosted a surprise birthday party for the CMU president in 2018. However, Dr. McLean denied that the Ministry normally hosts surprise parties for heads of agencies and departments. She also denied that the Ministry of Education organised and hosted that party. But, Phillips quoted an email that showed that the Education Ministry was a party to the event.

Obstructing FID Investigations?

In other developments, the PAAC expressed alarm that the CMU had sought to obstruct the investigations of the Financial Investigation Division (FID) by engaging an attorney at law to block the delivery of documents requested. But the CMU head refuted that suggestion. He indicated that the CMU is complying with the FID’s request. The institution was only disputing the manner in which FID made its request.

Send Pinnock on Leave

Citing the messy affair and an apparent “free for all” that is taking place at the CMU, the PAAC Chair recommended that the CMU head and other senior officers be sent on leave. This leave should be taken pending the outcome of investigations into the CMU operations.

What next for the CMU affair? One can only wait and see.

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