Wed | Jul 24, 2019

'Name them' - Wehby wants companies that benefited from Petrojam breaches made public

Published:Saturday | December 15, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Senator Don Wehby

One Government senator has joined the call for the Andrew Holness administration to publicly name the companies that got contracts from the state-owned oil refinery, Petrojam, that were found to be in breach of government procurement rules.

Further, Don Wehby wants all Petrojam funds "that were used for personal benefit" to be repaid.

"Including those used for the former minister's birthday party and birthday cake," Wehby declared as he made his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate yesterday.

"I am happy to hear that Andrew Wheatley [former energy minister] is willing to repay the funds," he noted.

Earlier this week, political commentator Dr Paul Ashley also called on the Holness administration to publicly name all the individuals, entities, and consultants that collected millions of dollars "they were not entitled to" from the state-owned oil refinery.

Ashley expressed the view that those who refuse to repay should be blacklisted from ever being employed in the public sector.

"You can't benefit from corruption and keep on benefiting. Everybody is talking about corruption. I am into naming the beneficiaries," Ashley told The Gleaner.

Wehby, a respected private-sector leader, wants the board of directors of Petrojam to swiftly provide the nation with details about the forensic audit to be undertaken at the entity.

He suggested, too, that the Petrojam board should look overseas if the expertise to conduct the forensic audit cannot be found locally.

 

NO STONES UNTURNED

 

"Get the best international consultants. We must leave no stones unturned with this one," Wehby declared.

"Whatever the findings of the audit, people must be held accountable and consequences must flow from the findings," added Wehby, who is also group chief executive officer of Jamaican conglomerate GraceKennedy Limited.

There has been wide public outrage over the findings of a comprehensive audit conducted by the Auditor General's Department (AGD), which show that over a five-year period (2013-2018), Petrojam could not account for 600,684 barrels of oil worth $5.2 billion.

The AGD, in a report tabled in Parliament this week, revealed that it found "explicit acts of nepotism, corruption, and breaches of the Government's procurement guidelines" at the state-owned oil refinery.

As an example, the report revealed that Petrojam spent US$21,000, or approximately J$2.6 million, on two "surprise" birthday parties for Wheatley and the entity's then chairman, Perceval Bahado-Singh. The expenditure for Wheatley's party included a US$1,000 'Topsy Turvy Chocolate Cake'.

On Monday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that he had ordered a forensic audit into the $5 billion unaccountable oil losses.

Among the details Wehby wants Petrojam to make public in short order is the proposed start date for the forensic audit.

"A date for the audit must be clearly set out. The terms of reference must be clearly set out. The process, timetable, and accountabilities must be laid out for the nation," he added.

"I cannot overemphasise enough that good governance is a key pillar of economic development."

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com