Auditor general calls out ministry on poor monitoring of agencies
With glaring weaknesses identified in the governance and monitoring framework at the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) and Petrojam, Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis says the portfolio ministry failed to effectively provide oversight of the entities' operations.
In an extensive audit of the operations of the PCJ, the Monroe Ellis-led Auditor General's Department found that the parent ministry, which was led at the time by former Minister of Energy, Science and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley, provided inadequate monitoring of the agency.
Wheatley resigned in July 2018 as pressure mounted for him to step down in the wake of scandals bedevilling the state-owned oil refinery, Petrojam.
Pointing to the ministry's cavalier approach to carrying out its oversight function, Monroe Ellis reported that although the PCJ consistently submitted the required board minutes and other specified reports to its parent body, the ministry did not demonstrate that attention was given to the documents.
The auditor general outlined that Principle 15 of the Corporate Governance Framework states that permanent secretaries as chief advisers to ministers are required to monitor performance against expected results, manage risks, and advise and inform the minister accordingly on public bodies that operate within the portfolio responsibility of the ministry.
NO EVIDENCE OF IN-DEPTH DELIBERATIONS
Further, Monroe Ellis said that the ministries should also ensure coordination among public bodies within the ministry's portfolio, which enhances policy coherence. "They should know what is happening in the public bodies in order to assess whether the strategic objectives of the ministry are being met through the public bodies," she insisted.
While acknowledging that Petrojam's board functions are independent of PCJ's board, Monroe Ellis argued that she expected the PCJ, as a parent company, to have mechanisms in place to remain informed of the operations of Petrojam and to implement intervention measures where necessary." In support of this view is the fact that Petrojam submitted its minutes and other specified documents to the PCJ. This submission is in keeping with good governance practices," said the auditor general.
The team of auditors who conducted the audits at both Petrojam and the PCJ also reviewed the latter agency's board minutes for the period 2015-16 to 2017-18. The audits revealed that while there were discussions about aspects of Petrojam's activities among board members, there was no evidence of in-depth deliberations and resulting decisions arising from these discussion points.
In addition, the auditor general said that the PCJ is represented on Petrojam's board; however, she said that her department found no evidence that the representatives provided formal reports to the PCJ's board as a means of monitoring Petrojam's performance.