Wheatley, Creary reject Integrity Commission's findings

Thursday, July 02, 2020

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WITH calls growing louder for his resignation as Member of Parliament for St Catherine South Central, embattled former energy minister Dr Andrew Wheatley has gone on the offensive describing as “damaging, spurious and belligerent”, the claims against him in the Petrojam Report released by the Integrity Commission.

Following a lengthy investigation into allegations of corruption at Petrojam under Wheatley's watch, the Integrity Commission, in a report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, charged that the former Cabinet member was “less than truthful” in his responses to questions posed by its investigators.

“It is the conclusion of the director of investigations that Dr Wheatley was dishonest in his aforementioned representations and, in this regard, sought to mislead and did mislead the director of investigation contrary to Section 48 (3) of the Integrity Commission Act, Section 11E of the Commission of Enquiry Act, and Section 4 of the Perjury Act,” said the commission.

Responding in a media release yesterday, Wheatley, who resigned from the Cabinet in 2018 despite claiming he did nothing corrupt, took aim at the commission which is the country's main anti-corruption watchdog.

“I welcome the report prepared by the Integrity Commission regarding the Petrojam investigation. Though I have not had a chance to read it, I have heard media reports, in which parts of the report call into question my honesty, character and reputation. I categorically deny any wrongdoing or dishonesty, as well as refute the claims of nepotism,” said Wheatley in the release.

“My main intention in public life has always been to serve the people of Jamaica. I have maintained above board in my dealings at, and with Petrojam, and in my former capacity as minister of science, energy and technology,” added Wheatley.

Among the damning allegations in the report is a claim that Wheatley was dishonest in his representations concerning one Sophia Deer and sought to mislead, and did mislead, investigators.

“Dr Wheatley was less than truthful in his representations to the director of investigation when he described Ms Sophia Deer as his former technical assistant. Ms Deer has been revealed to be the mother of Dr Wheatley's nephew,” the report stated.

But in his response yesterday, Wheatley said during his interview with the Integrity Commissions he was never asked about any familial or historic link to Deer.

“I was only asked about her competencies, ability to serve and the capacity in which she served. I answered all questions posed to me in a truthful and forthright manner. I could not answer questions that I was not asked.

“I remained available to answer any subsequent questions that may have arisen. There was no impropriety on my part. Therefore, the director of investigation was correct in citing no instances of nepotism and/or improprieties in my actions,” declared Wheatley.

The former minister has also defended his decision to appoint colleagues and allies to the Petrojam board despite the Integrity Commission's questioning if they were strategically placed in positions at the oil refinery as part of “corruption-enabling mechanisms”.

“It is being circulated that I knew the members that were assigned to the board of Petrojam and alluded to some sort of collusion. I am unaware of any public board (appointed by a minister of government under any administration) without the vast majority of its members being known by the minister.

“Being in a position of trust, I appointed persons who had previously demonstrated the ability to serve, were qualified and of solid character and reputation. It must be noted that all public boards are subject to the approval of Cabinet,” declared Wheatley.

“The assertions being made by the Integrity Commission are… baseless and should be retracted immediately,” added Wheatley.

In a seeming response to increasingly louder calls for him to resign as an MP, Wheatley made it clear he has no plans to walk away.

“It is my intention to continue serving my constituents and also my country in whatever capacity I can, and use this opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to honesty, integrity and the rule of law and to repudiate the efforts of those who would seek to tarnish persons who serve with innuendos and half-truths,” said Wheatly.

At the same time, Mayor of Port Maria and former Petrojam board member Richard Creary has also rejected claims that he was placed on the board of the State entity as part of any “corruption-enabling” scheme.

“I hear it being carried in various sections of the media that I was a part of a panel that interviewed former General Manager Floyd Grindley for the position and that I was somehow appointed to the board to enable corruption. Let me state categorically that I was not present at the interview and I challenge the commission or anyone else to provide evidence to the contrary” said Creary.

“At that time I had never met Floyd Grindley and I did not meet him until he commenced his employment as general manager at Petrojam” stated Creary.

“I replied to written questions, as well as willingly attended an interview at the Integrity Commission and at no time was I asked if I had interviewed Mr Grindley,” added Creary.

He said while he had not yet had an opportunity to go through the report claims that he has known Andrew Wheatley since 2003 and his appointment to the Petrojam board was to facilitate corruption are unfounded.

“I find this assertion as ridiculous as it is offensive and as a damaging speculation that has no base in fact. I do not know of any minister in any PNP or JLP administration [who] has appointed state boards of persons unknown to them to run the country's affairs. This is also true of the private sector, which often results in persons holding directorships in multiple companies,” said Creary.

“It is a most unfortunate conclusion from an agency that has integrity in its name, as it is a baseless statement that aims to impugn my integrity which has remained unquestioned and untarnished in both my private and public life.

“I hope this will set the record straight and the report will be corrected to accurately reflect the truth,” added Creary.

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