Tue | Feb 18, 2020

Editorial | National good trumps Wheatley's loyalty

Published:Wednesday | January 9, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Repetition is a source of redemption for those who are hard of hearing. And so it is for Prime Minister Andrew Holness. He is not renowned for his jocularity, but we believe that his attempt at humour with regard to the resuscitation of Andrew Wheatley's political stocks must be a sick joke.

For that is the only conclusion one can muster in reaction to Mr Holness' appointment of Dr Wheatley, soiled and discarded for his inept oversight of the energy portfolio, in particular in relation to the Petrojam oil refinery, the Universal Service Fund, and National Energy Solutions Limited, to a committee tasked with boosting the Government's poverty-reduction policy. Members of Parliament Leslie Campbell and Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn are also members.

Specifically, Wheatley and company will, we are told by Robert Morgan, director of communication in the Office of the Prime Minister, explore the framework of integrating "persons with disabilities and in state care to improve their prospects of employment".

We had already, in these columns, indicated to the prime minister that his allusion about the second coming of Andrew Wheatley so soon after his public censure was not only ill-timed but represented a scandalous indifference to national concern about the allegations of corruption, nepotism and plunder that attended the then energy minister's stewardship of state resources.

The Office of the Prime Minister's swift explanation that Dr Wheatley would not be issued resources from the State is neither here nor there. As usual, Mr Morgan is showing expertise in majoring in minutiae with little appreciation of the graver message that there is no sincere contempt of maladministration.

Even while investigations continue into Petrojam and its parent, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, Dr Wheatley cannot be absolved of responsibility and spared reproof.

The report by Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis was an unmitigated chastening about "explicit nepotism" and other irregularities.




For example, the report read: "We assessed the recruitment processes for a sample of 25 individuals recruited within that period, and found inconsistencies in the selection process. For example, we found no evidence that Petrojam advertised the vacancy for 13 positions, including sensitive positions such as the general manager and manager, refinery and optimisation. This was in breach of Sections 4 and 5 of the Recruitment Policy, which requires job vacancies to be advertised internally and externally."

Dr Wheatley and then Petrojam Chairman Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh were also the beneficiaries of two private parties funded by the State to the tune of $2.5 million. Dr Wheatley's alone reportedly cost around $1.5 million. This included Dr Wheatley and his friends and associates engorging themselves on a $130,000 topsy-turvy cake and other extravagance footed by taxpayers. It was akin to flossing like Flippa Mafia!

It is apparent that Dr Wheatley, the poster boy of prodigality, does not have the moral strength to retreat in sackcloth, and may be immune to attacks of conscience. That may be his character flaw. But the prime minister continues to exhibit a lack of judgement and firmness on matters relating to a political ally who stood by him amid a near-revolt against his leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party more than two years ago.

If the prime minister continues to put Dr Wheatley's fealty above the public good, he may find himself, inevitably, an unwitting victim of a consuming flood. Dr Wheatley won't be able to help him then.