Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Devon Dick Petrojam’s five in five

Published:Thursday | December 13, 2018 | 12:00 AM
The Petrojam oil refinery in Kingston.

What takes the cake in this Petrojam fiasco? Is it the 600,684 barrels of oil accounting for the unaccounted losses of $5b in five years, giving new meaning to five in five?

With $5b the police force could: be better paid; be more mobile; improve intelligence gathering; have more boots on the ground, etc. In other words, there could be the possibility of lower murder rate. It is a story about the road not taken. Pamela Monroe Ellis, auditor general, in a 113- page report, paints a picture that is frightening. The losses could adequately supply Jamaica's oil needs for a year!

Oil is processed to produce gasolene, diesel or asphalt. It means that these products would have to be used or traded by persons involved in such industry. There must be a sophisticated criminal network to use such large quantities of petroleum products. This oil scandal runs deep and wide. It is well organised. Everybody knows that tens of billions of cash tend to corrupt, and cash and contracts tend to corrupt absolutely. This swindle could involve banks, lawyers, accountants, politicians, police, board members, management, and based on the audit even a chaplain. This needs international forensic experts otherwise we are not serious.

The report mentions that the portfolio minister received from an MP (member of parliament) an appreciation note for a donation before board approval, and this is contrary to company policy of 2013. Since portfolio ministers appoint boards then they should know that statutory requirements for meetings and reports are not met - page 27 of auditor general's report. The report said it was "not evident that portfolio minister was active in monitoring and overseeing PCJ's (Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica) operations" - Page 82. This is a serious dereliction of duty, poor oversight and monitoring.

Another area worthy of note is the weakening financial position of the entity, declining profits and inadequate cash to meet obligation. The report states that there was just enough cash to cover 17 per cent of current liabilities.

 

PRODUCTION SHORTFALL

 

The refinery was producing 7.4 million barrels of finished products each year when it has a capacity of 13 million - pages 6 & 30. Can you imagine the benefit to the country if the entity was producing at full capacity instead of importing 7.8 billion barrels of finished products per year to meet production shortfall? This is a downright disgrace. There was no evidence of operating at lowest cost or getting value for money or meeting strategic objectives. Who really cares about the welfare of the majority of Jamaicans?

It is commendable that the former portfolio minister has offered to pay back money. However, he is not the only one culpable. What about the former general manager? The audit said, "The general manager forwarded the hotel's invoice to his administrative assistant. Please prepare PR and BEACS for me. 'I will sign when I get back. It was for a pre-strategic meeting in Mobay last week'. However, the particulars of the hotel's invoice did not support this claim. - page 79. This is a serious statement. In addition, it was a party for 15 guests. Why were six bedrooms paid for? Who were the 12 persons who stayed there? - page 79. Furthermore, the general manager was reimbursed $225,748, including the cost of the cake ( page 78). Why?

Legally, requirements were not met - page 9. There are enough laws and policies but they were ignored. The problem is in situations where guidelines are not adhered to, there are no sanctions, or inadequate punishment. Send a few top persons who are involved in this multibillion-dollar scam to our dilapidated prisons and it will frighten others. What else needs to be done? All gifts in cash and kind should be reported to Parliament otherwise corruption and bribery will prosper.

Heaven help us all if we do not stop this monster. No sah, dem nuh easy at all. Dis nuh normal!

- Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist. Send feedback to columns@gledanerjm.com