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Bunting cites Gov't hypocrisy in blocking PAC examination of PetroJam report

Saturday, December 08, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Peter Bunting reportedly walked out of this morning's Joint Select Committee (JSC) meeting, saying the Government has taken a "hypocritical approach" in its "deliberate attempts” to prevent the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC) from examining the findings of the PetroJam audit report.

According to Bunting, the chairman of the PAC attempted to set a meeting of the committee to examine the report for next Tuesday (December 11) however, the Government members have "frustrated this request".

The next available date given for a PAC meeting is the January 29, 2019, which is almost two months after receipt of the report, he noted.

The audit, which was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, outlined instances of management overriding procurement guidelines, inconsistent recruitment and employment practices, including explicit acts of nepotism, and inadequate oversight and monitoring of Petrojam operations by the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology.

It also highlighted $18 billion in estimated oil losses recorded over last five years and revealed that former general manager of Petrojam, Floyd Grindley, approved payments of approximately $2.6 million for two “surprise” parties.

See Bunting's statement in full:

Speaking at this morning's Joint Select Committee (JSC) meeting to review the Bill to Amend the BOJ Act, Bunting said, “When I contrast the demands being made to push through the Bill to Amend the BOJ Act, where there is no crisis, to the deliberate attempts to frustrate the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) from examining the PetroJam report which literally screams crisis, then I must conclude that the government is taking a hypocritical approach to the work of the Parliamentary Committees.”

While weekend meetings of Parliamentary committees have been held in the past, these are usually necessitated by an externally imposed deadline, such as an IMF benchmark. There is no obvious urgency in the instant case.

Last week the Auditor General tabled a damning report highlighting the waste, corruption and nepotism at PetroJam. The Chairman of the PAC attempted to set a meeting of the Committee to examine this report for next Tuesday December 11th 2018.

The Government members have frustrated this request, and the next available date given for a PAC meeting is the 29th of January 2019, which is almost two months after receipt of the report.

Bunting exited the JSC and stated, “I will be taking no further part in the meetings of this Committee until the PAC is allowed to meet to examine the Auditor General's PetroJam Report.”

He further stated, “The priority must be to staunch the haemorrhaging of resources at PCJ/PetroJam and to get to the bottom of the very disturbing issues exposed in the Report. The Public Accounts Committee has a duty to immediately examine this Report that has automatically been referred to the PAC by virtue of the Standing Orders.”

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