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PM to speak on findings of auditor general's report soon

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, December 06, 2018

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DIRECTOR of Communications at the Office of the Prime Minister, Robert Morgan, says Prime Minister Andrew Holness will be reviewing the just-published auditor general's report on aspects of Petrojam Limited and the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), and should speak to the nation on the findings soon.

The damning report, which is a compendium review of both State entities, was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis noted that the investigation sought to assess whether the operational activities, governance and monitoring framework at Petrojam and the PCJ are consistent with the principles of good financial management, and whether the procurement and contracts management practices accorded with Government guidelines and good practices to attain value for money.

The audit identified weaknesses in the governance and monitoring framework at both entities and deficiencies in Petrojam's procurement and contracts management practices and operational activities. Monroe Ellis warned that these weaknesses and deficiencies, if left unresolved, will increase the risk of corrupt acts and further erode Petrojam's profitability, which has declined over the past three years.

Morgan told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the prime minister would hold consultations with the relevant individuals and entities, “to ensure that when he makes a decision, that this decision and contemplation is sound, fair, objective, and reasonable”. Holness returned to the island yesterday from a special Caricom meeting in Trinidad and Tobago.

Asked whether there were any immediate concerns about the 115-page report, Morgan outlined, “We are concerned about issues of governance, issues of the management of State entities; we are concerned about questions as it relates to whether or not taxpayers' dollars are being spent efficiently and in the initial look at the report, these are issues that we are going to pay keen attention to as we are interested in growth and job creation.

“If you have inefficiency within the system, it impacts the ability of the country to grow and it also impacts the confidence of persons to invest in Jamaica… Those are issues that the prime minister will have to look at, he will have to have consultations and discussions looking at the findings to ensure that in the application of the recommendations, they are done quickly and that they are done in a manner that Jamaicans can be confident that they are to the benefit of all,” he said.

At the same time, the communications director said Jamaica House accepted and was appreciative of the report, which was very detailed and objective.

“The report will form the foundation for additional action after the prime minister has done his analysis. The PM returned to the island from the Caricom summit in Trinidad today. He will be reviewing in detail and having consultation with the relevant individuals and entities, to ensure that when he makes a decision, that this decision and contemplation is sound, fair, objective and reasonable,” he stated.

Morgan pointed out that Prime Minister Holness had already taken action in the Petrojam affair before the publishing of the report.

“The prime minister made a decision to take custody of the energy portfolio, the prime minister then had consultations with all boards (energy, science and technology). Coming out of those consultations was an instruction, through the Cabinet secretary, as it relates to how boards are appointed and how they ascribe to the governance framework that exists within the Government. So even before the auditor general's report, it would be objective and fair to say action has taken place,” he told the Observer.

Morgan noted the resignations of the Petrojam board, and former energy minister Dr Andrew Wheatley in the wake of the scandal that rocked the State entity, as demonstrations of the Government's commitment to transparency. He stressed that the auditor general's report creates opportunity for more action on the part of the Government.

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