Tuesday 10 December, 2019

Petrojam GM explains 'outdated' incentive scheme

Winston Watson

Winston Watson

Despite a poor performance appraisal, the controversial former human resource manager at Petrojam, Yolande Ramharrack, benefited to the tune of $2.75 million as a result of a decades-old policy at the oil refinery that guarantees a monetary reward based on several criteria.

The main criterion of the policy is that the refinery makes its targeted profit.

There has been public outcry over the revelation, contained in a Ministry paper document tabled in the House of Representatives by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Tuesday. The document shows that Ramharrack received a near $13.4 million settlement package from Petrojam, inclusive of the $2.75 million, after her services were terminated last November.

It was also revealed on Tuesday that Ramharrack received the package while she was in the midst of disciplinary hearings, having been accused by Petrojam of 19 serious breaches, including misuse of company funds, nepotism, negligence and incompetence.

General Manager at Petrojam, Winston Watson, told parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday that the policy was being revised. Ramharrack was appraised for the period April 2017 to March 2018 and received a score of 47.5 per cent. She served as HR manager from February 2017 until her services were terminated.

Watson, who was on secondment to the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, the parent company of Petrojam, and who returned in July at the height of the scandal, said he did Ramharrack’s appraisal with help from other employees. He would not be drawn on whether the 47.5 per cent score suggested that Ramharrack was incompetent.

Instead, he explained that the performance incentive plan was developed almost 20 years ago with assistance from PriceWaterhouse with the approval of the Ministry of Finance and the Petrojam board. Watson said the policy came about at a time when there was a freeze on wages for public sector workers. He said it contains a list of competencies and objectives which are used to appraise employees. On completion of the evaluation, each employee is paid a sum of money based on whether Petrojam meets its profit target. If the target is not met, there is no payment.

 “The issue is…how much (money) you get is dependent on your appraisal score. The policy says this is what you are entitled to if you get this score,” Watson explained.

 “Perhaps one could say there is a flaw in the thing (policy) (and) you need to improve on it. The answer is that it’s something we are willing to look at. In fact we are doing a review but for the moment, that is the policy, it was duly approved and we applied it,” Watson added.

But his explanation did not go down well with PAC member Peter Bunting.

“For a calculated score of 47.5 per cent you are warranted a $2.7 million performance incentive; so, if this person had got 95 per cent, she would own Petrojam,” Bunting commented.

Get the latest local and international news straight to your mobile phone for free: