Mon | May 20, 2019

PM to appoint auditors in Petrojam probe

Published:Thursday | January 31, 2019 | 12:31 AM
Bennett Templer

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has sought to backpedal on statements made by Permanent Secretary Sancia Bennett Templer on Tuesday regarding an audit into irregularities at the state-owned oil refinery Petrojam.

Yesterday, Bennett Templer sought to clarify in a statement that Petrojam was not being asked to undertake a forensic audit or appoint a forensic auditor to probe the $5.2 billion oil losses uncovered at the entity.

She noted that the prime minister, who has portfolio responsibility for energy, had notified Petrojam of his intent to commission a special forensic audit and to appoint the audit firm.

Bennett Templer noted, too, that Petrojam had submitted to the OPM an initial suggested terms of reference (TOR) for the audit. However, the TOR has to go through a review process involving the OPM, the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, and other persons or entities as may be determined to have an interest.

“The selection of the auditor or audit firm will be subject to the applicable procurement guidelines and requirements. As soon as the forensic auditor is appointed, we expect that their work will run parallel to that of the Petrojam Review Commission, and, where possible, feed into the considerations of the Petrojam Review Commission,” it added.

The permanent secretary’s statement comes just one day after she revealed to lawmakers at Tuesday’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament that an initial draft of the terms of reference had been completed by the management of Petrojam and was submitted to her office for review.

“Petrojam will proceed to market to procure a consultant to undertake that audit of oil losses as soon as we have completed the procurement process,” Bennett Templer told the meeting.

The consultant will be selected through the open-tender process, she revealed.

The arrangement triggered outrage among the opposition members on the committee, who questioned why the management of the refinery was being allowed to choose its investigator.

“It’s like the person on trial choosing their own prosecutor, judge, and jury. I must say, PS (Permanent Secretary), I am very disappointed with the methodology that has been followed,” PAC Chairman Mark Golding lamented.

Everald Warmington, the state minister in the OPM, sided with the parliamentary Opposition, declaring, “It was totally illogical to have thought of this in the first place.

“I’m being honest. We need to have a system that is totally transparent,” Warmington insisted.

syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com