Thu | Dec 13, 2018

Punish Petrojam wrongdoers – Munroe

Published:Sunday | June 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrian Walker
Professor Trevor Munroe (right), in talks with Michael Hopmeier, Circuit Judge at the Southwark Crown Court in the UK, during a symposium on law, governance and society hosted by The University of the West Indies’ Faculty of Law, in New Kingston yesterday.

Anti-corruption campaigner Professor Trevor Munroe is demanding that any public official, up to Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley, be sanctioned, if investigations confirm breaches of the rules at the state-owned oil refinery, Petrojam.

"In ensuring that law facilitates development, we also need to urge the Public Service Commission and the newly established Integrity Commission to thoroughly investigate credible allegations of cronyism and of nepotism at Petrojam, and appointments to the tourism ministry," declared Munroe at a symposium on law, governance and society hosted by the University of the West Indies' Faculty of Law in New Kingston yesterday.

"Where violations of rules and regulations are confirmed, action must be taken to rectify irregularities and to apply sanctions, up to, and including the minister, if he is found to be in breach," added Munroe.


Welcomed Wheatley's move


He welcomed Wheatley's move last Friday to summon the Jamaican directors of Petrojam, board chairman Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh, Harold Malcolm and Richard Creary.

The other three directors are from Venezuela, which owns a 49 per cent stake in the company.

"Minister Wheatley said his decision to meet with the local directors was prompted by the preliminary findings of an investigation into several grave and troubling matters at Petrojam, which have dominated public discourse in recent weeks," the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology said in a press release last Friday, as more allegations surfaced about misconduct at the oil refinery.

According to the ministry's release, Wheatley has promised to "use the powers afforded to his office and take decisive action to deal with all those matters currently affecting the state-owned entity".

Petrojam has been on the front pages since Opposition Spokesperson on Science and Technology Julian Robinson turned the spotlight on the entity while making his contribution to the 2018-2019 Sectoral Debate.

Robinson charged that there were "major project overruns" taking place at Petrojam.

"What is happening at this state-owned agency is what I would call the wild, wild west. It requires the intervention of the auditor general to go in with immediate effect to examine what is taking place at this entity," said Robinson.


US$7,000 airline ticket


During last week's sitting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), it was revealed that the chairman was reimbursed more than US$7,000 he spent for an airline ticket to the United Kingdom.

He did not travel to the meeting in February as planned, reportedly due to poor weather conditions, and recently refunded the money to Petrojam.

Several questions have also been raised about the $12-million salary package which Petrojam is paying its human resource manager, the engagement of an overseas consultant for a local project which could have been done by its sister company, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, and a $14-million yearly retainer fee for an entertainment and public relations company.

Petrojam is also to provide the PAAC with details of US$445,000 it donated to different entities in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.