Ex-admin assistant says Grindley sacked her for red-flagging concerns
A former administrative assistant at Petrojam testified on Monday that then general manager Floyd Grindley had dismissed her when she enquired about the energy ministry’s approval for a refund he had ordered for then chairman Dr Perceval Singh for a business trip.
The witness, who is testifying at the trial of two former executives on fraud charges in relation to alleged unapproved travel allowances, said she had raised concerns as it was the first time she had been asked to prepare a voucher that would have been in breach of the company’s policy.
“I asked him for the approval, and I said we had to get the permanent secretary (PS) to approve the disbursement voucher, and he said, ‘No.’ The conversation went something like this: ‘We do not have to get the PS’s approval because we are talking about the chairman,” the witness recalled Grindley reportedly saying during her evidence-in-chief in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.
The witness said that it was the first business trip for Singh, who resided overseas, for which he had made arrangements.
At the same time, she testified that it was against the ministry’s policy for the staff and board members to make their own arrangements and that she had not experienced that before working with the two former executives.
When questioned about the amount for the refund, she said: “It must have been more than US$1,000, because I was not comfortable signing the disbursement voucher, and although it was business travel for the company, we did not have the requisite approvals from the PS and the ministry.”
The witness said she did not sign the voucher.
The ex-employee, who had spent 16 years at the state-run refinery and was once responsible for travel allowances, said she had also suggested that they write to the ministry and the PS or send an email asking for late approval.
Grindley, she recalled, had told her that the refund was for an emergency trip.
But after being dismissed, the witness said she went to the chief financial officer, Delroy Brown, seeking guidance on how to deal with the situation given that there was a breach.
However, after speaking with Brown, the witness said she went ahead and prepared the cheque, which Grindley approved.
Asked by King’s Counsel Caroline Hay, who is prosecuting on a fiat, if she had encountered any other similar breaches with travel allowances, the witness said she remembered two other instances in which she was asked “to do something out of the norm”. She, however, was uncertain whether those cases related to travel allowances.
Explaining how she had handled those two other instances, she testified that she also brought them to Brown’s attention and that there were three disbursement vouchers that she had not signed.
In the meantime, the witness, while being cross-examined by Grindley’s lawyer, King’s Counsel K.D. Knight, said she was not aware that Singh’s travels were not covered by the ministry’s circular, which defined overseas travel as travel from Jamaica to abroad.
When pressed by Knight, she said: “I was just going by what I was told. I was told by the former general manager and the ministry when we had the Venezuelan directors and had to make arrangements for them.”
The witness said she had received permission to cover the travel for the Venezuelans using funds from the company.
Asked if she had any documents sanctioning the permission, the witness said she could not produce that correspondence as she was no longer with the company. She also said she could not recall who had signed those documents.
Grindley and Singh are being tried on fraud charges in relation to overseas travel allowances amounting to US$73,620.
Singh is alleged to have submitted claims between November 2016 and July 2018 for overseas travel he did not make while allegedly being aided and abetted by Grindley.
The witness will continue on the stand when the trial resumes today.