Cabinet calls in permanent secretary to explain Petrojam allegations

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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CABINET has directed permanent secretary in the Ministry of Science Energy and Technology Hillary Alexander to prepare a report on the operations of Petrojam in relation to numerous damning allegations in the public domain which have escalated over the past few weeks.

The permanent secretary is expected to have the report ready and, along with the senior management team of Petrojam, present it at the next meeting of Cabinet, which is usually convened each Monday.

Also, Cabinet yesterday approved the appointment of three people to the board of the State-owned oil refinery, a day after the three Jamaican directors on the board resigned in the wake of allegations of victimisation, nepotism and questions surrounding expenditure and contracts at the refinery.

The new directors are: Paul Hoo, former chairman of Supreme Ventures Limited; Rosie Pilner and Wayne Powell, both former vice-presidents of the Bank of Nova Scotia. The three other members of the board are the Venezuelans, Cesar Milano, Carlos Rauseo, and Raul Li Causi.

The Opposition People's National Party, in a statement last evening, objected to the permanent secretary being given the role to prepare a report to Cabinet.

Spokesman on energy Phillip Paulwell said it is clear that some of the breaches in the PetroJam crisis stems from managerial and oversight weaknesses in the ministry, for which the permanent secretary herself should take responsibility given that her role is oversight of the daily operations of entities that fall under the ministry, including Petrojam.

Paulwell, in an earlier statement, said the resignation of the Jamaican directors of the refinery was a step in the right direction, but does not go far enough to address the deepening crisis at the company.

He said those found culpable of acts of corruption, fraud or any other breach, after the ongoing investigations by the Auditor General's Department and the Office of the Contractor General are completed, must be held accountable.

The Opposition spokesman also called on energy minister Dr Andrew Wheatley to explain to the country the reason behind the resignations of the directors. He said, too, that a revelation by now former director Richard Creary that the board had not met in nine months was a damning indictment on the oversight of a major state agency, and “gross dereliction of duty on the part of the minister”.

As the controversy heightened, following last week's stormy meeting of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee with Petrojam General Manager Floyd Grindley and his team, the energy minister last Friday called the three then directors — chairman Perceval Badahoo Singh, Richard Creary, and Harold Malcom to a meeting, which he said was “prompted by the preliminary findings” of an investigation into several “grave and troubling matters at Petrojam which have dominated public discourse in recent weeks”.

Wheatley said he would use his ministerial powers to take decisive action to deal with all matters currently affecting the State-owned entity. The minister has since acknowledged receipt of, and accepted the resignations of the three Jamaican board members.

Petrojam is jointly owned by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, with 51 per cent shares, and PDV Caribe SA, under a joint venture arrangement entered into in 2006 between the Jamaican Government and the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for the expansion, joint cooperation and management of the Kingston refinery.

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