Wed | Sep 19, 2018

Prime minister meets with Petrojam staff - Outlines new direction and expectations

Published:Saturday | July 14, 2018 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has advised the staff of Petrojam that his administration was committed to the proper management of the state-run oil refinery, even as he admitted that there was corruption at the agency.

The prime minister, who has oversight responsibilities for the energy portfolio, said that the Government was putting in place the best possible framework to correct the issues at the oil-refinery, which has been drowning in allegations of mismanagement.

"Without good governance, the value of this asset which we all depend on will decline," Holness said yesterday at a meeting with the Petrojam employees.

One of the issues discussed was the obvious burden that the energy portfolio will have on the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), which is joined by the hip with the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation. But the prime minister told the staff that Petrojam was so important that it had to be placed on top of the priority list.

Holness' meeting with the employees follows their protest last week in which they demanded to know who, in particular, the agency reported to at OPM.

"For the next few months, at least until the strategic review is completed, I will take personal supervision and oversight of the operations here (Petrojam). But, of course, I am going to be ably supported by the board, the management and the management of the energy division," Holness advised the employees.

Addressing one of the burning issues which have been highlighted so far in the on-going saga surrounding Petrojam, the prime minister declared that there must be no victimisation at the entity.

"Petrojam is not a political organisation," Holness charged. "The only thing that I am concerned about is that I can get asphalt, cooking gas, low sulphur diesel, jet fuel, kerosene ... you name it. That's all I am interested in," he said, pointing out that the board had been given similar direction.

"We do know that there are issues here, as they have always been, with things that you could only describe as corruption," he added.

Holness said that much work would be put in to rebuild the Petrojam brand, which he admitted, had been tainted amid negative aspersions that have resulted in multiple resignations so far.

Meanwhile, the prime minister said that members of the commission that will spearhead the strategic review of operations at Petrojam will have three to four months to complete the exercise and submit their findings.

The members are expected to be named by next week. The prime minister said that the review was among several interventions by the Government that were designed to ensure that the institution remained viable, thereby safeguarding jobs and ensuring Jamaica's energy security.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com