Court told travel request by Petrojam general manager ‘a bit unusual’
Former Petrojam general manager Floyd Grindley

A request for overseas travel which came from former General Manager of Petrojam Floyd Grindley in August 2017 was found to be "a bit unusual" by former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology (MSET) Hillary Alexander.

Alexander, now retired, began her testimony on Tuesday as the latest witness in the fraud trial of Grindley and a former chairman of the local oil refinery Dr Perceval Singh. Singh is accused of submitting claims for overseas trips he did not undertake, while Grindley is accused of aiding and abetting Singh over a period spanning 2016 to 2018. The claims valued over US$73,000.

As chief parliamentary advisor to the minister of MSET, Alexander gave oversight of entities that fall under the governance of the ministry, which includes Petrojam.

Asked by the prosecutor if she identified a document she shared with the police, which contained copies of e-mail messages from Grindley seeking approval for a delegation from Petrojam to attend a meeting in Mexico, she answered affirmatively at the trial taking place at the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.

"This represents a request from Petrojam from the general manager seeking approval for travel for himself, Dr Singh, a director, and a Miss Gibson to Mexico for a meeting. It was a bit unusual as the justification indicated that it was for preliminary discussions. There was some communication with Mr Grindley by e-mail and also, as was the norm for us, I would have to run that by the minister.

"I received an e-mail from Dr Singh thanking me for my advice regarding the appropriate protocols for this kind of travel, indicating that in retrospect, and given the coordination necessary, himself and the director would not attend this meeting. I sent an e-mail to the chairman stating that I noted his response and that the minister had so advised me of the fact that the director and chairman would not attend," she told the court.

Similar to the testimony of previous witnesses in the trial, she said there was a circular from the Ministry of Finance explaining the rules as it relates to overseas travel.

"This procedure applied to all public bodies, including Petrojam. Travel means for official purposes from Jamaica to another country. Overseas travels does not include travel undertaken by employees proceeding on long-term appointments to overseas Jamaican offices. Travel can be undertaken by employees in accordance with scholarship, work, or government interchange programmes."

The court was previously told during the trial that Singh resided overseas during his chairmanship and wouldn't be eligible to have overseas trips to meetings paid for by the Ministry of Finance and Public Service.

Bert Samuels, the attorney-at-law representing Singh, probed during cross-examination whether chairmen of the Petrojam board received a salary and if they are reimbursed for incurring out-of-pocket expenses.

Alexander confirmed that the chairmanship is not a salaried position.

Jason Cross

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