Tue | Jan 26, 2021

Mark Wignall | PCJ/Petrojam’s boards messy and reckless

Published:Wednesday | December 5, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Dr Andrew Wheatley

My late mother used to tell me the story about a time way back when she stepped out of her rural house for a while. When she returned, my two elder sisters, then toddlers, had come upon an opened tin of sweetened condensed milk.

As she related it, one could not tell the difference between Rosie, Shirley, the tin of milk and half of its contents. They were foolishly smiling and seemingly innocent, but it was a complete mess. And that, as the most apt descriptor I can grab for, seems to have been the reckless abandon of the respective boards attached directly to the energy ministry.

If you needed to be charitable, you could always say that for now, the findings as set forth by auditor general Pamela Monroe Ellis must mean that recklessness, constant breaching of best-practices guidelines and profligate spending have been stalled, and the prime minister who has adopted the energy ministry cannot afford to be seen presiding over another messy situation but this time just right outside his office.

A US$1,000 birthday cake for the man who used to be the energy minister, Dr Andrew Wheatley? I know very little about accounting and financial auditing, but something tells me that once such a practice and expenditure was extracted from the taxpayers' dollars, stuff like, " ... constant projects overruns, no value for consultancy services, minimal and declining profits and inadequate cash to meet most objectives" would naturally follow.

The menu of behaviours discovered by the auditor general were like public servants going hog-wild over wallowing in the wanton waste of the taxpayers' dollars only because they felt some systemic connection with doing it freely and getting away with it.

As example, " ... For the other project, North Perimeter Fence Replacement, Petrojam made a bad business decision by awarding a contract which was $67 million more than an initial estimate for which it could not determine that the additional value was received."




At the height of the Petrojam scandal, when the matter of the fencing was being highlighted, one source that I used to trust for authentic information deliberately lied to me by saying that the inflated cost was solely due to the physical base of the refinery at Petrojam being significantly lower than Marcus Garvey Drive, so additional spending was required.

The source even had a 'technical' person call me to 'confirm' the lie. I was the fool then. In its hiring practices it brought nepotism at the place where it tends to concentrate most: on government boards and the selective power they wield.

" ... While Petrojam has policies that guide its recruitment and employment, its application of these policies was not always consistent. For example, we found instances where two individuals closely connected to employees of Petrojam were employed despite being rejected by the interviewing panel."

Over at the head office, the audit continues, " ... At PCJ, from a sample of 27 officers, we found that 11 of the related posts were filled without being advertised and there was no evidence that PCJ interviewed or conducted any other assessment for eight of the officers."

Whatever excuse Andrew Wheatley could have desperately clutched for in trying to advance an exculpatory position has now been blown. We need not go much farther than the US$1,000 birthday cake. Such behaviour is the kind we usually attach to petty despots.

After that it is usually a diamond-lever toilet and soft mink to sit on while one is doing that famous number to every Jamaican in rural, urban, suburbia and inner-city community.

We need to hear something more from you, PM.