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OCG in \'surprise\' audit of LNG deal

Published:Tuesday | June 22, 2010 | 1:46 PM

A \'surprise\' audit is presently underway at the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ)and the Ministry of Energy and Mining by a team from the Office of the Contractor General (OCG).

The team, which showed up at both government entities at 10 a.m. is expected to take into custody records that are associated with the procurement processes that led to last week’s announcement that the Exmar Consortium was approved by the Cabinet as the preferred bidder to establish an LNG Regasification Terminal and Natural Gas Transportation System (LNG System) in Jamaica.

Electronic copies of the computer email files of several former and present senior PCJ and Ministry officials have also been requested by the OCG five person Audit Team.

The Team is headed by the OCG’s Senior Director of Contracts Monitoring and its Chief Investigator.

Under Sections 4 (2) (b) and 4 (3) of the Contractor General Act, a Contractor General is empowered “to have access to all books, records, documents, stores or other property belonging to Government, whether in the possession of any officer of a Public Body or a contractor or any other person” and to “require any Public Body to furnish in such manner and at such times as may be specified by the Contractor General, information with regard to the award of any contract and such other information in relation thereto as the Contractor General may consider desirable”.

The Special Audit coincides with two (2) letters which were written today by Contractor General, Greg Christie, to Nigel Logan, the Acting Managing Director of the PCJ and Hillary Alexander, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mining and Energy.

Both officials were formally advised that the OCG had commenced an enquiry into the PCJ’s LNG System tender and contract award processes.

In explaining the enquiry Christie said the OCG had received an anonymous complaint, dated Wednesday, June 16, 2010, from a \"seemingly knowledgeable source\".

The complaint according to the OCG alluded, among other things, to allegations of impropriety and irregularity in the selection of the Exmar Consortium as the “preferred bidder”.

A letter was written on June 18, 2010 to energy minister James Robertson, by the OCG informing him of the allegations . The OCG’s letter was copied to the Prime Minister Bruce Golding and the Energy Permanent Secretary.

The government is currently looking at diversifying its energy resources and last week approved negotiations with Exmar Consortium for constructing a floating storage and regasification facility at Port Esquivel, St Catherine.