Tuesday 12 November, 2019

Petrojam Scandal: Queries about former chairman’s London ticket

Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh

Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh

The former Petrojam Board Chairman who resigned last month, was reimbursed more than US$8,000 (J$1 million) for an airline ticket for a trip that had virtually been completed before the applicable travel dates on the ticket, according to information that was revealed on Wednesday at Parliament’s Public Administration and Accounts Committee (PAAC).

Acting General Manager at Petrojam, Telroy Morgan, told the committee that the London trip, where Petrojam managers meet with the company’s insurers and underwriters annually, was initially scheduled for February 18–24 this year, but was pushed back to February 25 – March 1.

But while two managers made the trip, the chairman, Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh did not.

And while it was previously reported that he missed the trip because of a severe weather event, and submitted a ticket for reimbursement after purchasing the ticket himself, it has emerged that the airline ticket was for the period March 1 -6, essentially after the meetings took place.

When told of the dates for the trip, committee chairman, Dr Wykeham McNeill, questioned Morgan, asking: “…In other words, everybody knew the trip was the 25th to the 1st?”

“Absolutely,” Morgan replied.

“So why would someone purchase a ticket from the 1st to the 6th?” McNeill asked.

Before Morgan provided an answer, McNeill gave his own pronouncement.

“Maybe it’s a difficult question to answer,” he indicated.

“It’s an interesting question,” Morgan responded.

Bahado-Singh, who lives in Maryland in the United States, resigned along with the other two Jamaican members of the Petrojam board in June. This was after serious allegations of corruption - including questionable spending, as well as charges of nepotism and cronyism - emerged, beginning some six weeks ago.

While Bahado-Singh did not function as an executive chairman, Morgan told the PAAC that the former chairman made 26 Petrojam-related trips between December 23, 2016 and May 2018, for a total cost of US$75,290 or J$9.4 million.

Another trip for which Bahado-Singh was reimbursed, although he did not make it, was to Brazil in May of this year.

He has reportedly since paid back the monies for the two trips he did not attend.

The parliamentary committee was also told that Petrojam’s General Manager, Floyd Grindley, facilitated the breaches of the Government’s procurement guidelines by its chairman as it relates to travel and the purchasing of airline tickets, as he routinely instructed his accounting staff to approve invoices for payments to the chairman without the required supporting documentation for his travels.

When committee member, Fitz Jackson, asked why the guidelines were not followed by the company, a member of the Petrojam staff told the PAAC that this was so “because we were otherwise instructed by the general manager to make the payments”.

Grindley was grilled by PAAC members when he appeared before the committee three weeks ago, resulting in issues being taken about what was deemed to have been his non-response or inadequate answers to some questions that were posed to him.

He was absent at Wednesday’s sitting. He reportedly wrote to the PAAC chairman on Tuesday, informing him that he had to travel overseas on urgent family matters.

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