THE MECHANISM used by the state-owned oil refinery Petrojam to set weekly gas prices has sparked a verbal exchange between Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell and his opposition counterpart Gregory Mair.
This after Mair, in a statement released on Wednesday, criticised Paulwell for, among other things, failing to address what the opposition spokesman asserted was a lack of transparency in Petrojam's pricing mechanism.
But at a Gleaner Editors' Forum on Wednesday, the minister revealed that Mair has missed two opportunities to have the process explained to him by Petrojam.
He said, when Mair first raised the concern, he brought it to the attention of the National Energy Council, of which the opposition spokesman is a member, and an emergency meeting was arranged to "fit Mr Mair's schedule".
"The first time we put on the table, he said he could not make it. So we shifted everybody and we arranged a special meeting of the energy council where Petrojam gave a detailed presentation on its energy pricing," he explained.
"Mr Mair did not attend the meeting ... I am disappointed with Gregory, because he is now an established member of the Energy Council," he added.
However, in a swift response, a strident Mair acknowledged missing the meetings, but insisted "I am not the person they should explain it (the pricing mechanism) to, it's the people of Jamaica."
"What we want to know is the actual numbers used to arrive at the prices. If there is nothing to hide, why can't the public know the formula," he insisted.
Mair criticised the energy minister for failing to act on several issues that could reduce energy costs to Jamaicans.
One of those issues, he noted, was that "to date, there is no transparency in the fuel pricing mechanism used by Petrojam."
"Any unfair pricing is inevitably a cost to the Jamaican people and not the Government, as it is the consumer that pays for the fuel," Mair said.
"This is made worse given the fact that the Office of Utility Regulation stated publicly that Petrojam had been overcharging for fuel for electricity generation over an extended period," he added.
Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell.