PNP rejects terms of reference for Petrojam forensic audit

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Leader of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), Dr Peter Phillips has rejected what he said are the limited terms of reference announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to guide the forensic audit of Petrojam, calling it a “sham”.

He maintained that appropriate investigations must be conducted by the Major Organised Crime Agency (MOCA) and the Integrity Commission to determine whether there was criminal behaviour and those responsible.

Holness yesterday ordered a forensic audit into the entity following the release of a damning report by the Auditor General last week which has deepened the controversy that has engulfed the oil refinery since the start of the year.

The findings, which were tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, revealed high levels of unaccountable oil losses, instances of management overriding procurement guidelines, poor management of capital investment projects and consultancy arrangements, inconsistent recruitment and employment practices, and inadequate oversight and monitoring of Petrojam operations by the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology.

The PNP in response to yesterday's announcement by Holness said the limited scope of the audit will not satisfy the public's demand for comprehensive uncovering of the corruption at Petrojam.

Phillips said the prime minister's ordering a forensic audit of the oil losses alone is unacceptable and should be repudiated, as there was widespread corruption, fraud, misappropriation and illegal spending in several areas of the company's operation.

He demanded that a separate process be established to investigate the extent of the missing oil revenue identified in an audit by PDVSA (the Venezuelan partner in Petrojam) in February 2018 and now validated in the AG's report.

Phillips said that the audit done by PDVSA, which was given to the government since February 2018, alleged that Petrojam paid J$334 million above market for the product on the spot market for High Sulphur Diesel (HSD), bought through an emergency procurement mechanism.

According to Phillips, the prime minister should “demonstrate a genuine willingness to deal with corruption and therefore stop creating further confusion by segmenting or watering down the scope and importance of an audit, which is necessary for taxpayers to know where their money went, and who should be held accountable.” “We are reiterating our call that, where necessary, the government should seek the investigative assistance from our international partners who have the required expertise to uncover the quagmire and any enabling mechanism,” Phillips said.

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