We must save the CMU success story


We must save the CMU success story

Sunday, June 30, 2019

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Something is rotten in the State of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), to tweak Shakespeare's play Hamlet. The time is long gone for corrective action.

The longer the appearance of financial mismanagement lingers, the more harm it does to the CMU. Until it was converted into a university the CMU had an impeccable reputation which has now been damaged by the innuendoes, thereby raising questions about its academic credibility and processes.

For example, are the lecturers and management staff properly qualified for their posts, and were they selected in a transparent process that can withstand public scrutiny? Are those bearing the title of “professor” qualified by academic training, experience, and publications?

Interestingly, there is a view that the CMU was prematurely made into a full-fledged university and should have been a part of The University of the West Indies (UWI) or University of Technology, Jamaica.

The investigations brought on by allegations of corruption have exposed the fact that the CMU has expanded its central mission of maritime training, and is now engaged in training unattached youth.

One is entitled to wonder what else is the CMU involved in which is not strictly a part of its mandated mission? The current head of the institution needs to be sent on leave until the fledging investigation and financial audit are completed. This is necessary for several reasons.

First, the delay in handing over documents — including payment to attorneys to challenge the legal procedures by which investigative agencies have required said documents — which that the CMU knew it would have to hand over anyway. This apparent reluctance to cooperate is open to a variety of interpretations, all of them unfavourable.

Second, in appearances by spokespersons for the CMU before the Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), the answers given for the hiring of consultants local and foreign-based lack credibility as to the procedure by which they were hired, ie whether they have the required qualifications to meet the job description and the basis on which their remuneration was calculated.

These expenditures partly or entirely depended on public money and must be explained.

Third, the contemptuous attitude displayed repeatedly to the PAAC is disgraceful, the answers disingenuous, and the most ridiculous was the characterisation of a social event involving the then minister of education as “an industry function”.

Fourth, defence as the best form of counter-attack by playing the victim and claiming harassment smacked of impertinence and arrogance.

While the CMU head is on leave — he can return after he is cleared of any wrongdoing — the CMU should be put under the supervision of the UWI until all the issues are resolved and the institution can be restored to its own means.

In the interim, the UWI can provide proper and experienced management from its current or recently retired staff.

The CMU is a valuable institution and must be salvaged. To accomplish this the investigation must be quickly and comprehensively done, and the recommendations implemented as soon as possible.

No one must be allowed to delay or frustrate this process.

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