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Not surprised! PSOJ boss agrees with poll blaming Wheatley and Petrojam board for mismanagement at refinery

Published:Thursday | March 14, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Andrew Wheatley
Howard Mitchell

The findings of a RJR/Gleaner commissioned Don Anderson poll which shows that 27 per cent of Jamaicans hold the board of Petrojam, the state-owned oil refinery, responsibile for the issues outlined in the Auditor General’s report, come as no surprise to President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) Howard Mitchell.

According to Mitchell, good governance dictates that boards must be held primarily responsible for management issues.

“The statutory and legal responsibilities for the operation of a public body are reposed in the board of directors. So that logically, if there was mismanagement and if that mismanagement was of proportions that damaged the company, the board has to take the majority of the responsibility and hold the management of the company responsible,” Mitchell said yesterday in an interview with The Gleaner.

Last December, Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis released a damning report on the operations of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) and its affiliate, Petrojam, pointing to “explicit acts of nepotism” at both entities and deficiencies in human-resource recruitment and management practices.

Of the people surveyed, 22 per cent believe that former energy minister Andrew Wheatley should be held responsible for the issues at Petrojam, while 12 per cent blame Prime Minister Andrew Holness, eight per cent fingered the former general manager and another eight per cent said the previous People’s National Party administration should accept responsibility.

Mitchell agrees with the 53 per cent of people who believe that Wheatley should have resigned sooner. He also concurs with the 46 per cent who say the former minister should be barred from being a member of parliamentary committees.

“That is the logic of good governance. If you are put in charge of something and something goes wrong even though you are not legally responsible, if it is found that you were negligent or if there is any apparent negligence in your oversight of what you are given to take care of then you must stop taking care of it,” the PSOJ president said.

“The magnitude of the Petrojam situation, the losses that have been suffered, the delays, and the apparent inactivity and that has allowed the principal actors, the management that were principally responsible to escape any liability it appears, it is of such a magnitude that the (former) minister should spend a little time in the wilderness contemplating what went wrong.”