PNP says resignation of Petrojam local directors not enough

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica— People's National Party (PNP) Shadow Minister of Energy Phillip Paulwell says the resignation of the Jamaican directors of Petrojam is only a step in the right direction, but this does not go far enough in addressing the corruption and deepening crisis at the nation's sole oil refinery.

Paulwell said the ongoing investigations by the Auditor General and the Office of the Contractor General must continue to completion and those responsible for acts of corruption or fraud or any other breach must be held accountable.

The PNP spokesman is also asking Energy Minister Andrew Wheatley to explain to the people of Jamaica why the board members were forced to resign.

Paulwell said further that the revelation by Director Richard Creary that the board had not met in nine months is a damning indictment on the oversight of the major state agency and a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the minister.

“When the PNP was in power, we ensured that at least one of the Venezuelan directors was domiciled in Jamaica. This had to be so because of the critical nature of the Petrojam operations to the nation and the national economy,” Paulwell said in a release from the political party.

He also reasoned that the major projects currently being undertaken by the agency demand that the board is active and responsive in the decision-making process and ensuring that the interest of the Jamaican people is safeguarded.

“The agency was left with no oversight; both the chairman Mr Perceval Bahado-Singh and the minister must be held accountable. In fact, Mr Bahado-Singh, who also sits on the board of the parent body Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), needs to step down from that agency as well,” Paulwell said.

The PNP shadow minister said the revelation in the PAAC last week that the chairman of the board was paid unlawfully by the agency when he made claims for reimbursement of travel and other expenses for which he was not entitled, is beyond troubling.

He further insisted that all the other matters, including "the wanton and unlawful dismal of staff, the hiring of unqualified persons in sensitive positions and at unusually high salaries, the breach of procedure in travel arrangements for the chairman and payments to him for airline tickets he did not use, the unprecedented cost overrun for the construction of the oil refinery wall, the unusual and unnecessary retainer being paid to an events company, as well as questionable donations made by the agency, must be thoroughly investigated and the chips fall where they may".

Taking note of a release last week from the resigning directors stating that there was no basis for the PNP's concerns about the agency, the Opposition said it has now been confirmed that the Venezuelan board members were not aware of the release, which, according to the party, falsely included the board's agreement and approval.

“A letter written to the chairman of PetroJam now confirms beyond any doubt that they did not participate in the approval of the donations the agency made. Venezuela continues to hold 49 per cent share in Petrojam.

“The crisis at Petrojam has ensured extended delays in implementing the urgent and critical VDU project without which the very viability of the agency is threatened.

“Every effort must be made to rescue the nation's sole oil refinery and safeguard taxpayers investments,” Paulwell said.

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