Thu | Oct 17, 2019

Phone call frenzy - Former Petrojam GM racks up $1m bill in a month

Published:Friday | September 20, 2019 | 12:10 AM
Grindley
Grindley

Chairman of Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) Dr Wykeham McNeill says the parliamentary oversight body will probe the $1 million phone bill racked up by former Petrojam boss Floyd Grindley.

A document obtained by The Gleaner shows that in December 2016 alone, Grindley’s cell-phone charges soared to $1,008,099.80.

That was multiple times the phone bill of Winston Watson, a previous Petrojam boss who had been seconded to the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica as group general manager.

That same month, Watson incurred $20,947.27 in cell-phone charges.

McNeill told The Gleaner yesterday that he was hearing of Grindley’s million-dollar bill for the first time.

He argued that despite audits at Petrojam, information continues to surface from the scandal-plagued entity on an ongoing basis.

“The system in Petrojam broke down,” he said, adding that the PAAC would be probing the matter.

On Wednesday, McNeill indicated that several issues examined by the committee remained unresolved. He said that the committee would be recalling some ministries and agencies to get answers to several questions.

Grindley, who became the Petrojam boss on November 23, 2016, resigned in July last year at the height of a scandal over a series of malpractices at the state-owned oil refinery, including the hiring of human resource manager Yolande Ramharrack, who did not have the requisite qualifications.

In a response to Gleaner enquiries, Petrojam provided a statement saying that it has recovered some of the telephone charges. However, the company’s spokesperson did not say when the expense was recovered or the actual amount.

“Charges in excess of the amount prescribed in the GOJ circular were recovered,” said the spokesperson, citing the Government of Jamaica’s Circular 8.

What Circular 8 Says

1. The preset monthly limit for officials (like Grindley) is $40,000, or $480,000 for the year.

2. The cap shall include services relating to Internet usage, teleconference expenses, or packages related to overseas travel.

3. Where, due to overseas travel or for any other valid reason, a holder of a government-funded mobile phone is required to exceed the limit for the purposes of the effective performance of his/her duties, prior approval must be sought and granted by the relevant accounting officer or by the relevant board.

FINAL PAYMENT

The Petrojam spokesperson said that the final payment calculation exercise for the former general manager was overseen and finalised by the group internal auditor.

The spokesperson said, too, that the board of directors did not participate in the exercise.

“The review of telephone charges included the apportionment of applicable credit under the telephone plan and an assessment of roaming charges incurred. Charges in excess of the amount prescribed in the GOJ circular were recovered,” the spokesperson said in the statement but did not offer details.

Petrojam did not immediately answer questions seeking details about the actual payments.

Five questions for Petrojam:

1. What amount was recovered?

2. What amount was not recovered?

3. What amount, if any, was to have been recovered but which you did not recover?

4. What accounted for your failure to recover the amount, if any, as set out at number 3 above?

5. Was there prior approval for Grindley to exceed the monthly limit?