QUEEN’S Counsel KD Knight on Wednesday quizzed Tamara Robinson, legal officer and corporate secretary of Petrojam, whether she was responsible for reporting concerns of irregularities in payments made out by the company, as the fraud trial of two former officials of the State-owned oil refinery continued in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.
Former chairman of Petrojam Dr Perceval Singh and former General Manager Floyd Grindley are facing trial for fraud-related charges, emanating from more than US$73,000 worth of questionable travel claims.
Knight on Wednesday sought to ascertain whether part of Robinson’s duties as legal officer was to ensure good governance of Petrojam. He also made further inquisition on whether the chief financial officer was free to seek her legal advice in matters where money is to be reimbursed to or by employees.
Robinson’s response was that, “legal issues do not always arise, but we have policies and procedures around reimbursables, payables and accounting. Not everything that doesn’t comply with policy or procedure is a legal issue and a lawyer isn’t needed to resolve it. There are policies and procedures in place for most, if not all operations. The activities are guided by these procedures. If there is non-compliance in the procedure then it won’t proceed, whatever the activity is. That would be careless of who is in the seat [approving it]”.
Knight also asked Robinson whether she was responsible for giving Grindley, the former general manager, his orientation when he took up the post in 2016 and whether she agreed that people coming from private sector into public sector may unwittingly commit breaches of procedures especially where there was no orientation for the new employee. Robinson said she was not responsible for taking Grindley through an orientation process.
“The chief financial officer would be quite free to come to you and ask your legal opinion if money is reimbursed or not and you would look at it in terms of the rules promulgated by the Ministry of Finance? As it is with your power to advise, so would it be for your advice on payables?” Knight inquired.
He continued: “So if there is a departure from the procedure, the system should correct that departure and the system should not say I was induced to do it. In the system at Petrojam there is a chief financial officer who should know what the requirements are, especially if the chief financial officer is vintage in the post and the company”.
Robinson told the court that where legal queries come to her regarding payments, she or the chief financial officer would seek clarity. She explained that she did not do the orientation for Grindley because she was only responsible for orientating new members of Petrojam’s board. If there is a departure from operating procedures, she said, the “system”, in reference to the management at Petrojam, and would “know what to do” in that event.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Science Energy and Technology Carol Palmer appeared in court as a new witness in the trial on Wednesday following Robinson’s completion of her testimony.
Palmer was interrogated on the procedures Petrojam was expected to follow regarding claims for overseas travels or otherwise. She returns to give more evidence today.