Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Canute Thompson | Petrojam: pinnacle of corruption?

Published:Tuesday | June 19, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Canute Thompson

It now appears that the stench emanating from Petrojam is so strong that the minister of energy cannot bear it anymore and has summoned the three Jamaican directors to a meeting. Despite the minister's apparent concern, there is no indication that the stench has affected the prime minister.

For the noxious smell to be addressed, citizens must rise up in large numbers and demand accountability. It is worth noting that Minister Andrew Wheatley is one of three ministers named by the Office of the Cantractor General in its July 2017 report on the bush-clearing $600m spend, but the prime minister has refused, to date, to address that report despite offering to do so 'soon'.

One hopes Minister Wheatley fully understands that Petrojam is the property of the Jamaican people, who have a right to know what is taking place there. One trusts the minister will provide full answers to the questions in the public domain and will not be as elusive as he was in Parliament a few days ago.

I have 10 questions for the minister and the management of Petrojam:

Given the claim of the general manager that the human resource manager (GM) possesses industrial relations, human resources, and conflict management competencies to a degree greater than that of her predecessor, could the GM advise the public of the organisations in which the HR manager has worked and displayed those skills; and can you confirm the number of overseas conferences and training events the HR manager has attended since her incumbency, and the total cost of those trips?

Is it not true that the former HR manager has a case against the company at the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) alleging unlawful dismissal, and is it not true that the case against the company is so clear-cut that the IDT is currently assessing the quantum of damages?

 

Special expertise

 

Given that Petrojam's chairman resides in the United States of America and the cost of his attendance at monthly board meetings involves air travel, hotel, car rental and per diem expenses, what special expertise does he bring which are not available locally?

Regarding the construction of the wall at the Petrojam Refinery on Marcus Garvey Drive, which was estimated by the National Works Agency at $29 million, but had a final cost of $91 million, could the public be told:

Who was the contractor?

How was the contractor selected?

What factors accounted for the 200% jump in the cost?

Who authorised the payment?

Whether the board was made aware of the difference between the budgeted cost and the actual cost and, if so, when?

With respect to the Asha Corporation contract to supply financial analysis and managerial support to Petrojam at a cost of $2.1 million per month, what factors led to the engagement of that firm given that the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) says it is well able to provide these same services to Petrojam?

Is it true that the $22m paid for these services were paid to an individual and not to Asha Corporation?

Is it true that an entertainment management company is paid a retainer of $13.9m annually plus a monthly fee even though it does not provide services to Petrojam on a monthly basis; and could you please advise the public as to why Petrojam would need to retain an entertainment company?

Is it true that the total donations made by Petrojam to various causes last year was $74m and can you confirm how much of that $74m was spent in the minister's constituency and the process by which the projects were selected?

Are the minister and the GM satisfied that all necessary measures to ensure probity, accountability, value for money, and transparency, have been employed by the company, and if not, what steps have been made to assure these standards?

Has the minister briefed the prime minister on the developments at the company, and can the minister commit to providing full disclosures on these matters?

- Canute Thompson is head of the Caribbean Centre for Education and Planning and lecturer in educational leadership. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and canutethompson1@gmail.com.