Ramharrack comes under more fire

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, February 14, 2019

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DOCUMENTS tabled in Parliament Tuesday by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on the settlement package to former Petrojam Human Resources Manager Yolande Ramharrack yesterday gave rise to more questions from Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The PAC again questioned officials of the state oil refinery and permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Sancia Bennett Templer, on the circumstances surrounding Ramharrack's contract and settlement package upon her separation from the company last November.

Opposition members alleged that the contract tabled on Tuesday may have been doctored. According to a letter dated January 30, 2017, Ramharrack's total monthly compensation at the time was $12.9 million, but members pointed out that Petrojam had submitted another letter, dated January 30, 2017 but with a lower salary package to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), last July.

St Mary Central Member of Parliament Dr Morais Guy (Opposition member) pointed out that the previous contract letter detailed a total compensation of $10.5 million. “This document tabled by the prime minister yesterday (Tuesday) suggests that we have some PhDs working at Petrojam who are good at spin because this particular document seems to have been doctored and presented to the Parliament. In addition, the document tabled speaks to the probation and it says 'based on the general manager's request your probationary period has been waived'. However, the document tabled at the PAAC said 'you are required to undergo an extensive orientation period, consequently your probation period shall be for four months, beginning on the effective date of your employment'.”

Petrojam's General Manager Winston Watson told the committee that he had not seen the updated contract letter until documents were being prepared for Parliament on Tuesday.

Telroy Morgan, who acted as general manager after Floyd Grindley left the company in mid-2018, also made it clear that Tuesday was the first time he had seen the letter.

“As the acting general manager at the time, the original letter is what was presented to me along with two payroll change forms, one speaking to the original letter and a second change form speaking to an increased figure on the basic amount. That's the information that I had at the time and that is the information that was submitted (to the PAAC),” Morgan said, noting that the information was provided by the human resources department.

State Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Everald Warmington was harsh on Morgan. “There was a change in salary on the pay stub [so] there must be some document to show that there was a change authorising that, and I would say you were derelict in your duties if you saw something like that and didn't ask. There is no way I could be running a corporation and I have a contract in front of me that states a figure and the pay stub corresponds with that figure, and there is another pay stub that speaks to an increase, I would have to ask how do we arrive at that and where is the document to support it.”

Committee Chairman Mark Golding stressed that there was no indication as to when the letter, which was presented to Parliament on Tuesday, was actually written.

“Obviously it was deliberately backdated to that date. As to when that second letter came into existence we do not know. Mr Morgan said... what was presented to him [was] what he presented to the PAAC. That letter, it appears, was superceded, we are told, by the letter with the higher salary. However, nobody can tell us when that second letter came into existence,” he charged.

Watson, meanwhile, was asked to provide the committee with minutes of the two disciplinary hearings which were held with Ramharrack in October to answer to 19 charges of breaches of company policy, gross negligence and incompetence.

She resigned on November 22, after reaching a settlement with Petrojam a day before the Auditor General's draft report on Petrojam in relation to allegations of corruption came to light.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis told the PAAC that it was not unusual for entities to be forewarned of an impending draft report.


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