Monday 16 December, 2019

Opposition demands answers on the expansion of the Petrojam Board

The Board of Directors of the scandal-hit state-owned oil refinery Petrojam has reportedly been expanded and the Shadow Minister of Mining and Energy, Phillip Paulwell, is demanding answers from the Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Fayval Williams.

Paulwell has charged that the expansion of the board occurred without any public announcement.

“By way of a cabinet decision, dated August 26, 2019, and communicated to the company on September 2, 2019, the Minister expanded the Board from its original membership by four persons. The new directors include Mr. Robert Clarke, Miss Alecia Bish, Mr. Edwardo Mendl and Mr.  Amilkar Mata,” Paulwell said in a statement on Friday.

Additionally, he said while the cabinet decision did not provide any background on the new appointees, his information is that at least two of them live overseas.

Paulwell noted that such an arrangement is similar to that of the former Chairman of Petrojam, Perceval Bahado-Singh, who resigned at the height of the Petrojam scandal in 2018.

Allegations are that at the time, Bahado-Singh, who was accused of claiming for trips he did not take, resided in Maryland in the United States.

“The Minister should tell the country if Petrojam was again paying travel and other expenses for these directors in contravention of new rules announced by the Prime Minister a year ago,” Paulwell stated.

The Opposition spokesman said the Energy Minister should also give details on the current size and composition of the full Petrojam board and whether any non-Jamaican interests are represented. He said it is curious that while the government was actively engaged in winding down the operations of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) and its subsidiaries, the Minister was bloating up the Petrojam Board.

And Paulwell reminded Minister Williams that the Opposition wants a forensic audit of the PCJ before it is closed down and its functions transferred to the Ministry.

He said the Minister is obligated to present a fulsome statement on the PCJ on the way forward, in both the public interest and in the interest of transparency.

This, he said, was necessary as several questions remained about corruption, nepotism, and cronyism at the group of companies.

Meanwhile, Paulwell expressed shock at the announcement on Friday by the Chairman of the Public Sector Transformation Committee, Danny Roberts, that neither his committee nor the Public Sector Transformation Unit of the Ministry of Finance was aware of, nor was involved in the decision to close PCJ.

“This revelation is worrisome and contradicts the Minister’s statement to Parliament on Tuesday,” he said.

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