The University of the West Indies, UWI, has made an about-turn on its decision not to appear before a parliamentary committee to account for how it spends the subvention from the Jamaican government.
Yesterday, the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee, PAAC, was stunned when its Chairman, Dr. Wykeham McNeil read a letter from the UWI, saying that as an autonomous regional body, it’s not accountable to the Parliament.
However, the Vice Chancellor of the UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, today wrote to Dr. McNeil, changing the university’s position.
Professor Beckles has apologized for what he says was the ‘misunderstanding and consequences’ that developed in respect of request for the UWI to appear before the PAAC.
He says, the letter to the committee from the university’s Registrar was not to obstruct the importance of the engagement.
But to ‘clarify the principle of accountability and procedure’.
Professor Beckles says the UWI as a regional institution is keen and willing to appear before the PAAC in respect of Jamaican investments in all campuses, not just Mona.
He says the UWI Bursar, 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 added that it’s a well established procedure for the University Bursar to make such submissions to all governments on behalf of all campuses.
According to the Vice Chancellor, there was no attempt to challenge the authority of the Jamaican parliament.
He points out that Jamaica is recognized as having made the largest single investment in the UWI over the past 68 years.
The letter was copied to the Minister of Education, Senator Ruel Reid.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the PAAC, Dr. Wykeham McNeil, says clarity is needed on the system of reporting between the government of Jamaica and the University of the West Indies.
He says there’s an uncertainty as to when the Government’s finance representative meets with the Finance and General Purposes Committee at the UWI.
And, Dr. McNeil says more will be done to establish how subventions to the UWI are spent.