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'It's unacceptable'

PAAC says probe into Petrojam's operations must not die; wants other agencies recalled

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, September 19, 2019

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THE ministries of national security, energy, and education are to reappear before the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) to address unresolved questions in a number of controversial matters surrounding government agencies that have been brought to public attention since 2017.

The outstanding issues include the status of the arbitration proceedings for the police used car deal, the Petrojam investigations, the status of National Energy Solutions (NESol), and the most recent involving consultancies to the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU).

“There are a number of matters that we have deliberated where we have not arrived at a conclusion. Information is left outstanding and the committee has not been able to complete its deliberations,” Chairman Dr Wykeham McNeill told yesterday's meeting of the parliamentary committee.

He stressed that there must be some conclusion to all the matters which were uncovered at several sittings of the PAAC about the operations of the refinery.

“We had to stop our deliberations because we were told it was sub judice... so it goes in under investigation, never gets completed and the matter just dies. That's unacceptable.”

As it relates to the Government's controversial $427-million used-car deal with Obrien's International Car Sales, the committee wants details on the delivery of the 200 vehicles that were contracted, the payment of the Customs duties that were in dispute, and the results of the arbitration proceedings between the car dealer and the Government.

“This whole arrangement seems to have fallen down completely and we need to just get to the root of it and clear it up once and for all,” the PAAC chairman said.

He said, too, that the PAAC wanted a report on the terms of separation for former Petrojam general manager, Floyd Grindley, and his compensation package.

Grindley demitted office last July as Petrojam became cloaked in corruption allegations. “He (Grindley) either resigned, retired or was fired. As a committee we need to know what happened.

Also, there were a number of issues including the management of airline tickets for chairmen, which, to my understanding, were the matter of investigations by the security forces,” Dr McNeill said.

At the same time, committee member and East Kingston Member of Parliament Phillip Paulwell said the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology should give a full report on the wrapping up of NESol, another of its agency's which became the subject of investigations over alleged breaches of government contracting guidelines.

The PAAC is also seeking answers on the way forward for the roll out of public Internet hot spots, for which NESol had been contracted by the Universal Service Fund.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness in December announced that NESol was to be shut down.

In addition, the PAAC wants to know the status of the consultancy contracts which the CMU entered with Gayle Campbell Dunwell, former Jamaica Labour Party MP, Othneil Lawrence, and others.

The committee insisted that it must have clarity in order to fulfil its mandate of providing full reports to Parliament on these issues


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