Saturday 20 July, 2019

JLP calls for Paulwell’s resignation over Petrojam saga

Phillip Paulwell

Phillip Paulwell

The deepening Petrojam scandal has now seen the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) calling for the resignation or firing of Opposition Spokesman on Energy, Phillip Paulwell.

The JLP’s position on the matter is based on the fact that some of the troubling issues uncovered by Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis during her months-long probe of the state-run oil refinery spanned a period of time when Paulwell served as Energy Minister under the then People’s National Party (PNP) Government.

The auditor general’s probe and subsequent findings, which included the “loss” of over 600,000 barrels of oil valued at $5.2 billion from the refinery, related to the period 2013 to present, with Paulwell having been the Energy Minister for three of the five years.

Against that background and the fact that Dr Andrew Wheatley was forced out of the Cabinet at the height of the scandal in July, the JLP is calling for Paulwell’s resignation.

According to the JLP, Paulwell should also recuse himself from deliberations of all parliamentary oversight bodies which are likely to shortly review the auditor general's report that extends to the tenure during which Paulwell was the “Primus Inter Pares of the Energy Sector”.

JLP General Secretary, Dr Horace Chang, said it is noteworthy that in relation to issues raised in the energy sector under the current JLP administration, there has been accountability through resignations at the ministerial, board and management levels.

Chang’s reference was to Wheatley, the three Jamaican Petrojam board members - the then chairman, Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh; businessman and politician Richard Creary; and attorney-at-law Harold Malcolm - as well as the then General Manager, Floyd Grindley; and the former Human Resource Manager, Yolande Ramharrack, who have all resigned or been separated from Petrojam.

Dr Horace Chang

“However, in contrast, there has been no such accountability in respect of the Opposition People's National Party's spokesperson on energy, who served as minister for three of the five-year span (that was) reviewed in the auditor general's probe,” Chang stated.

“It is in this vein (that) the Jamaica Labour Party is calling for Phillip Paulwell to resign as Opposition Spokesman on Energy, or to be fired by Opposition Leader Peter Phillips,” he elaborated.

“It's also noteworthy and regrettable that over $5 billion worth of unaccounted for oil at Petrojam extends to the tenure of former Energy Minister, Phillip Paulwell, who is now a PNP vice president and the party's spokesman on energy,” Chang added.

According to him, “it's unfortunate that Paulwell who survived as minister during the Solutrea, EWI, Netserv, Light Bulb and Trafigura scandals, has now positioned himself as a voice of reason in relation to issues at Petrojam, which also prevailed under his watch.”

The JLP general secretary is insistent that Paulwell should be held to account for the delay in the country's crucial move towards energy security because of what the contractor general had identified as his "unfair, highly irregular and improper intervention" in the procurement process in securing a preferred bidder, EWI, to construct an LNG plant.

Chang said it should be further noted that under Paulwell's watch for the first time, an international development finance agency, the International Development Bank, was moved to raise public concerns and withdraw from the process which was crucial to achieving Jamaica's energy security.

Chang said silence from stakeholder groups on the issue of Paulwell's posture would be hypocritical, especially within a context where the auditor general's Petrojam report implicated Paulwell's tenure, but the Opposition member has been purporting to speak with credibility on the same subject area in his capacity as Opposition spokesman.

Both Paulwell and the PNP have said they would welcome a full forensic audit into the operations of Petrojam over the last five years, including the period when Paulwell was the Energy Minister.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has ordered a forensic audit of Petrojam’s operation over the last five years, but the focus is limited to the missing oil.

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