Management and operational changes planned for PCJ

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, April 11, 2019

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CHANGES are to be made to management and operational practices at Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) to conform with Government policy in light of serious inefficiencies identified in the auditor general's damning December 2018 compendium report on the State-run oil refinery and its subsidiary, Petrojam.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Science, Energy, and Technology Carol Palmer gave this indication Tuesday at another meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), where the PCJ's employment practices came under scrutiny.

Among the issues brought to the fore, from information contained in an extensive document submitted to the committee yesterday by the ministry, was a list of people hired to the PCJ without interviews or assessments, or the positions being advertised, or reference checks in some instances.

Palmer said she is now in discussions with portfolio minister Fayval Williams, but that the changes will require a Cabinet submission.

“I have been in discussions with the minister up to yesterday (Monday) on this particular entity and we will be taking steps to address the issues, which I am not prepared to divulge at this time... suffice it to say that the actions we are taking will require us also going to the Cabinet for a decision,” Palmer said.

Since the publishing of the auditor general's report, in which the PCJ was cited for poor oversight of Petrojam as well as questionable practices of its own, there have been calls from the Opposition for the management of the corporation to be held to account.

Palmer also said she has received a list of the approved establishments for all agencies that fall under the ministry.

“I have made it very clear that we must return to the proper policies that govern operations… yes, you may seek approval for short-term engagement but any intention for longer-term engagement must require an appropriate submission to the ministry for approval for that post to be a part of the establishment,” she said.

“This is the challenge that we now face, as I have been provided by the Ministry of Finance with the establishment of all the bodies within the portfolio, and I am going through with a fine-tooth comb to establish the irregularities because it has to be remedied. It cannot be that you just decide that you need more people, and you have money so you go ahead, totally oblivious of the policy direction that you must obtain from the Government,” Palmer said.

“This appears to be the practice, and so I shall be writing to indicate that the process must be observed or else the appropriate sanctions must therefore be applied. It cannot be that we continue business as usual, which is all unusual in my estimation, as I delve into this process, now nine weeks on the job,” she stated.

St Catherine Southern Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson had raised questions about a three-year contract for the post of manager of finance and administration, which paid a salary of $5.2 million per annum; $25,000 for duty allowance; $75,700 for transportation, and other benefits, and included a loan provision as well as gratuity entitlement of 25 per cent of gross salary after two years.

Palmer told the PAC that as far as she was aware, there is in fact no such position. “It's not on the establishment as I have been provided by the Ministry of Finance. It's a position that has been established by the board, I would assume, and the person was employed,” she said.

The PAC is scheduled to meet on April 23 to continue the discussions.


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