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University of West Indies agrees to appear before parliamentary committee

Jamaica's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament Chairman, Dr. Wykeham McNeil Jamaica's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament Chairman, Dr. Wykeham McNeil
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Oct 14, CMC – The University of the West Indies (UWI) has apologised over what it claims to be a “misunderstanding’ regarding the appearance of the regional institution before the Jamaica Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC).

In a letter written to PAAC chairman, Dr. Wykeham McNeill, the UWI Vice- Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles wrote that the UWI as a regional institution, “is keen and willing to appear before the PAAC in respect of Jamaican investments in all of our campuses, not just the Mona Campus”.

The UWI has campuses in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.

Earlier this week, the university’s registrar, William Iton, made it clear that the UWI had no legal obligation to appear before the Jamaican Parliament.

“Please be advised that the UWI is a public autonomous regional educational institution which serves 17 countries in the Caribbean,” Iton said in the letter dated October 10, and addressed to Dr Maurice Smith, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education.

“The university was established by (British) Royal Charter in 1962. The university therefore has to be distinguished from other agencies of your ministry,” the letter continued.

uwiiThe royal charter makes the institution only legally answerable to the British monarchy, identified as the ‘visitor’, or its representatives.

Iton’s letter said as a contributor to the university, Jamaica was “entitled” to information and recommended that the Government use its representative on the university’s finance committee “to request the necessary information”.

The letter has resulted in legislators indicating that they would be pushing for necessary changes to ensure that the university is answerable to the Parliament.

McNeill said the Jamaican situation is unacceptable and his committee would be recommending that Parliament consider the issue with the aim of starting to ensure that Parliament could do its job as an oversight body for public funds.

“It’s not that we’re casting any aspersions on the UWI. Any expenditure made out of public funds must have scrutiny. You must understand how it is spent and for what it is spent.

“Where the systems are in place, our job is to ensure that those systems are followed, and where we find a system where there is a deficiency, say in this case, then we have to move to adjust it and to agree to it. The one thing I can be certain of is that we will put in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure openness and transparency.”

Jamaica is providing J$8.3 billion (One Jamaica dollar +US$0.008 cents) to the UWI this academic year.

In his letter, Sir Hilary said that the UWI “apologies or the misunderstanding and its consequences that have developed” noting that Iton’s letter “sought to clarify the principle of accountability and facilitate the procedure rather than obstruct the importance of the engagement.

“The UWI, as a regional institution, is keen and willing to appear before the PAAC in respect of Jamaican investments in all of our campuses, not just the Mona Campus. It is well established procedure for the University Bursar to make such submissions to all governments on behalf of all campuses.”

Sir Hilary said that the Mona Campus accounts for only a part of the national expenditure, hence the need to assist the parliament to fully take on board the regional nature of its investment.

“Governments have, from time to time, sought clarification of the principle of regional investment and national accountability, and the governance model of the UWI was created in order to embrace Ministers of National Governments in order to accommodate this circumstance.

“There is therefore no attempt to challenge the authority of the Jamaican parliament which we celebrate and recognise as having made the largest single investment in the UWI these past 68 years,” Sir Hilary said, adding that the university is “grateful that the parliament has approved investments that have enabled the UWI to grow as a globally respected regional University.

“The University Bursar, therefore, acting on behalf of the entire UWI system, is empowered to honour the request of the PAAC and will do so as soon as his presence is requested,” he wrote to McNeil.

  • Countries: Jamaica