Speaking at a symposium on law, governance and society hosted by the University of the West Indies' Faculty of Law in New Kingston yesterday, Dr. Munroe observed that "in ensuring that law facilitates development, we also need to urge the Public Service Commission and the newly established Integrity Commission to thoroughly investigate credible allegations of cronyism and of nepotism at Petrojam, and appointments to the tourism ministry."
"Where violations of rules and regulations are confirmed, action must be taken to rectify irregularities and to apply sanctions, up to, and including the minister, if he is found to be in breach," added Munroe.
Munroe who heads the NGO, National Integrity Action, welcomed the move by Energy Minister Dr. Andrew Wheatley, to summon the Jamaican directors of Petrojam, board chairman Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh, Harold Malcolm and Richard Creary. The other three directors are from Venezuela, which owns a 49 per cent stake in the company.
"Minister Wheatley said his decision to meet with the local directors was prompted by the preliminary findings of an investigation into several grave and troubling matters at Petrojam, which have dominated public discourse in recent weeks," the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology said in a press release last Friday, as more allegations surfaced about misconduct at the oil refinery.
According to the ministry's release, Wheatley has promised to "use the powers afforded to his office and take decisive action to deal with all those matters currently affecting the state-owned entity".
Petrojam has been on the front pages since Opposition Spokesperson on Science and Technology Julian Robinson turned the spotlight on the entity while making his contribution to the 2018-2019 Sectoral Debate.
Robinson charged that there were "major project overruns" taking place at Petrojam.
"What is happening at this state-owned agency is what I would call the wild, wild west. It requires the intervention of the auditor general to go in with immediate effect to examine what is taking place at this entity," said Robinson.
During last week's sitting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), a number of irregularities were revealed:
1. The new HR manager at Petrojam Yolande Ramharrack was employed at a salary of $12 million annually. This is a significant jump in pay from what was being earned by the previous HR manager ($9 million). She was previously employed in a junior management post at a private sector firm at $5 million annually. She has served on Andrew Wheatley’s constituency executive, was appointed to the boards of Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) and the (SMAJ) Spectrum Management Authority. She resigned from the PCJ board to take up the job as HR manager at Petrojam. She is known to be a personal friend of the Minister.
2. The Former HR Rosalee Scott Heron was fired from the post on Christmas Eve 2016 to make way for Ms Ramharrack. Mrs. Scott Heron’s case is currently before the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) where compensation for her unlawful dismissal is being worked out.
3. Chairman’s airline ticket – The chairman Perceval Bahado-Singh in February 2018 was allowed to purchase his own airline ticket to attend a board meeting in London, which he did not attend. The ticket cost some US$8000. (J$1 million). The fact that he was allowed to make this purchase privately, is a breach of Government Procedure. The Procedure dictates that all such purchases must be made through the Government system and payment made directly to the airline or the travel agency.
Furthermore he did not to attend the meeting, giving the excuse that weather conditions were not conducive to travel. He was paid per diem and hotel arrangements were made. The cost for the airline ticket was refunded to him despite the fact that he did not attend the meeting. He repaid the money to Petrojam, in the week of June 6, only after the matter was made public. Bahado-Singh is a friend of Minister Wheatley who studied with him at university and who now lives in the United States. He is expected to travel from the US to monthly board meetings and Petrojam finances his air travel, hotel, car rental and per diem bills.
4. It is understood that Chairman Bahado-Singh was also booked to travel to Brazil for a meeting earlier this year, again he purchased his own ticket and was refunded by Petrojam and again he failed to turn up at the meeting. There is no indication that he refunded the agency.
5. Over runs on the building of the wall – the construction of the wall at the Petrojam Refinery on Marcus Garvey Drive was estimated by NWA at $29 million, the wall ended up costing $91 million prompting a number of questions for Petrojam:
- How was the contractor selected?
- Who is the contractor
- What accounts for the overrun?
6. Rodney Davis Contract/Asha Corporation – A consultancy arrangement was made with Asha Corporation to supply financial analyses and managerial support to Petrojam to the tune of $2.1 million per month. Petrojam’s parent company Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) says it is well able to provide these same services to Petrojam. Why then was Rodney Davis and Asha Corporation, which was paid $22 million over one year, contracted? Furthermore, the payments were made directly to Rodney Davis and not to Asha Corporation.
Rodney Davis, a friend of Minister Wheatley, was sacked by Cable and Wireless Jamaica in 2007.
7. Main Event retainer of $13.9 million: Entertainment company Main Events is paid a retainer annually, in addition to being paid per assignment by Petrojam. Main Events provide entertainment/events management services to the oil refinery.
8. Petrojam made donations to various causes of some $74 million last year. Of the amount that went to constituencies, the majority of the donations went to Minister Wheatley’s constituency.
Questions on the donations to Wheatley’s and other constituencies and the general operations at Petrojam were tabled in Parliament and are expected to be answered next week, June 20.
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