Integrity Commission accuses Wheatley of being dishonest


Integrity Commission accuses Wheatley of being dishonest

By Balford Henry
Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

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The Integrity Commission has accused former energy minister Dr Andrew Wheatley of being “less than truthful” and “dishonest” in his responses to questions posed by the entity in its probe of alleged corruption at Petrojam oil refinery.

“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,” the commission stated in a report tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday.

The report, which covered allegations of donations made by the energy ministry to various institutions, was among several tabled in Parliament yesterday by the Integrity Commission, including two relating to allegations of irregularities at the refinery between 2016 and 2018, which led to Wheatley's resignation from the Cabinet.

It recommended that a copy of the report, particularly in relation to the donation of funds and allegations of fraudulent signatures, be forwarded to the commissioner of police, as well as the Financial Investigations Division (FID).

The second report covered allegations of acts of irregularity, and/or impropriety, conflict of interest, corruption, nepotism, cronyism, and favouritism at Petrojam.

In the donations report, the commission's director of investigations concluded that, based on the documentary evidence provided during the probe, questions arose about whether the strategic placement of certain individuals in key positions at Petrojam served as “corruption-enabling mechanisms”.

“The strategic placement of certain individuals is evidenced by the appointment of Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh and Mr Richard Creary to the board of Petrojam Limited. Dr Bahado-Singh and Mr Creary thereafter interviewed Mr Floyd Grindley for the position as general manager, Petrojam Limited, a post to which he was selected as the successful candidate,” said the report.

It added that Grindley, after being appointed as general manager, was a part of a three-member interview panel which recruited Yolande Ramharrack as the human resource development and administration manager, the position that oversees the grant of donations by the entity as well as the recruitment of staff.

However, the Integrity Commission reported that is was noted that the statements provided by Dr Wheatley, Lionel Myrie, and Oswald Williams, regarding the alleged key involvement of the late Councillor Owen Palmer, question the sincerity of the representations.

The director said he is making the conclusion on the basis that Palmer is deceased and, as a result, the commission is unable to corroborate some issues, including the presentation by Wheatley that he had divested all matters pertaining to donations within his constituency to Councillor Palmer; the representation by Myrie that Councillor Palmer instructed him to forward e-mail requesting donations from Petrojam Limited on behalf of Homestead Citizens for Action Benevolent Society; and, the representation by Oswald Williams that Councillor Palmer verbally contracted him to construct classrooms at Homestead Primary in Wheatley's constituency.

The director also concluded that the approval of the donation of US$60,000 (J$7,560,000) and $6 million by Dr Bahado-Singh, former Petrojam chairman, to the Scientific Research Council (SRC) constituted a conflict of interest.

He said this was premised on the conclusion that Dr Cliff Riley, executive director of the SRC, is not only an academic affiliate of Dr Bahado-Singh, but was also revealed to be a close friend.

“The investigation also revealed that Dr Cliff Riley was a groomsman at the wedding of Dr Bahado-Singh,” the report said.

The director of investigations recommended that a copy of the report and, in particular, the allegations and findings concerning the repurposing of the donation of funds from McCook's Citizens' Association to Sydenham Citizens' Association, and allegations of fraud as they relate to the signatures which were purported to be that of one Charmaine White, be referred to the commissioner of police for the conduct of criminal investigations.

“It is further recommended that a handwriting expert be engaged to examine the authenticity of the signatures purported to be that of Charmaine White,” the director said.

The director also recommended that the report be referred to the FID for further investigations to be conducted in relation to donations made by Petrojam for the period 2016 to 2018 to Sydenham Citizens' Association, Homestead Primary School, Camperdown High School, the University Diabetes Outreach Programme, and the North Eastern Regional Health Authority.

The director of investigation also “strongly recommended” that Petrojam update its policies and procedures for the receipt, approval, disbursement, and monitoring of donations to allow for stronger internal controls and transparency throughout the donations process.

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