Former Petrojam GM's orders made admin assistant uncomfortable
A view of the Petrojam Oil Refinery in Kingston

THE woman who played the role of administrative assistant to Floyd Grindley between 2016 and 2017, when he was general manager of Petrojam, claimed on Monday that she felt uncomfortable by requests from her former boss to prepare disbursement vouchers without board approval.

Grindley and former Petrojam Chairman Dr Perceval Singh are on trial in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court in relation to the submission of claims amounting to US$73,620 between December 2016 and May 2018. The claims were made by Dr Singh for overseas travels which were never undertaken. Grindley is alleged to have aided and abetted the ex-chairman in the process used to make the fraudulent claims.

According to the former administrative assistant, who took the witness stand after Petrojam Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Delroy Brown, she became uncomfortable after Grindley handed her invoices for monies to be refunded to Dr Singh for overseas travels.

"Mr Grindley gave me the invoices to do the disbursement vouchers to get the refund for the chairman. I asked for the approvals and I said we had to get the permanent secretary [PS] to approve the disbursement voucher. He responded saying, 'We do not have to get the PS' approval because we are talking about the chairman of the company'," she testified.

She said that, after being dismissed from Grindley's presence, she was forced to seek guidance in the matter from a very senior member of the management team in the form of CFO Brown.

"I went to Mr Brown at that time because I needed to know if I should go ahead and prepare the cheque, knowing that the process for reimbursement was a breach because we didn't have the requisite approval. I spoke to Mr Brown about these issues that concerned me. He spoke back to me. I prepared the disbursement voucher as instructed by the general manager, but I did not sign it. I gave it to the general manager for his approval and he approved it," she told the court, pointing out that the amount approved was more than US$1,000. She recalled at least two other instances in which she had to prepare disbursement vouchers for the reimbursement of overseas expenses without proper authorisation from the board.

The administrative assistant said that there were guidelines that governed overseas travel and that she was responsible for organising those trips.

King's Counsel KD Knight, who is representing Grindley, pressed the witness about Circular 21, which outlines the rules regarding overseas travels and stipulates at which point the company would be responsible in making reimbursements for overseas travels.

She was also pressed about whether she had knowledge that former chairman Dr Singh resided overseas during his tenure and whether his travel expenses were to be covered, seeing that he lived outside Jamaica.

"Official travel means members of Government and the board going on overseas travels from Jamaica. I knew that Mr Singh lived abroad as chairman, and I knew that official travels from the United States does not qualify as overseas travels," she said.

She was further grilled about a statement she gave to the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) which had inconsistencies in the dates. In that statement, the witness erred when she told MOCA she had been transferred out of Grindley's office in 2016, when in fact she was moved to another department in 2017.

BY JASON CROSS Observer staff reporter crossj@jamaicaobserver.com

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