Wed | Apr 24, 2019

Probe Petrojam - Christie says integrity body should investigate

Published:Friday | June 22, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Greg Christie

Former Contractor General Greg Christie has said that the relevant oversight body should send a team to investigate allegations of corruption and nepotism at Petrojam, the state-owned oil refinery.

Christie told The Gleaner yesterday that the Integrity Commission should start a probe at the refinery. "On the face of it, an investigation would be warranted," he said.

The Gleaner, in an editorial earlier this week, called on the director of investigation at the Integrity Commission, David D. Grey, to initiate an investigation at the beleaguered state-owned oil refinery.

In a terse response yesterday, Grey pointed to Section 53 (3) of the Integrity Commission Act. The provision states: "Until the tabling in Parliament of a report under Section 36, all matters under investigation by the Director of Investigation or any other person involved in such investigation shall be kept confidential and no report or public statement shall be made by the Commission or any other person in relation to the initiation or conduct of an investigation under this Act."

Yesterday Christie reiterated a long-held concern that the provision was a departure from the Contractor General's Act, which permitted disclosures regarding investigations. Further, he noted that anti-corruption agencies around the world made announcements when they started an investigation in an alleged case of corruption in government.

"It prompts the public to come in and support your efforts by giving information," Christie told The Gleaner, noting that the disclosure creates an atmosphere of transparency. "You can't be an anti-corruption organisation and nobody knows what is going on."

In 2015, Christie raised concerns about the controversial provision in the Integrity Commission Act, which muzzles the oversight body until a report is tabled in Parliament. During deliberations of a joint select committee of Parliament on the Integrity Commission Act in 2015, then Justice Minister Mark Golding said that the provision would ensure that investigations were not played out in the public domain.

But Christie had insisted then that such a move was a step in the wrong direction. He argued that while he supported the need for confidentially, it was important that the public was made aware of investigations that had been launched.

Christie contended that it had been his experience that when an announcement was made, members of the public would come forward with information to aid investigations. The former contractor general had expressed concern that investigations that were unknown to the public could be interfered with, or terminated irregularly, with the public being none the wiser.

Under the former Contractor General Act, the public was entitled to be informed of the commencement of a formal investigation.