Sunday 31 May, 2020

Petrojam's HR manager interviewed by person with no ties to the entity

The controversy surrounding the appointment of Yolande Ramharrack as Human Resources Manager at the state-owned oil refinery Petrojam, where allegations of nepotism and cronyism abound, is deepening.

It has emerged that one member of the three-member panel that conducted the interview with Ms Ramharrack prior to her employment in early 2017, has no ties to the refinery. It also emerged that that person has no connection to Petrojam’s parent company, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ).

These revelations were made during Wednesday’s sitting of parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC).

The PAAC was told that the three-member panel that interviewed Ms Ramharrack for the job included former board member Richard Creary, former General Manager Floyd Grindley and a Lowel Dilworth.

At this point Opposition member of the committee Fitz Jackson commented: “The third person, Mr Lowel Dilworth, we don’t know what capacity he was sitting in on that interview.” Jackson,  then asked whether Dilworth was a staff member or a director from another ministry.

“He’s not a director at Petrojam and I don’t think of PCJ or the group,” said Telroy Morgan, Acting General Manager at Petrojam. When asked how Dilworth became involved with the interview Morgan responded: “We haven’t been able to unearth that information…we don’t know in what capacity Lowel Dilworth was sitting in on that interview.” The committee was told that Dilworth is a chemical pathologist but that’s all the information that was forthcoming.

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Meanwhile, in a report submitted by Petrojam and read by PAAC chairman Dr Wykeham McNeill, it was revealed that the services of the former Human Resources Manager were terminated on December23, 2016. An advertisement was placed in the Sunday Gleaner on New Year’s Day with a deadline for receiving applications being January 6, 2017.

Petrojam said it did not place the advertisement, neither internally nor externally. The company said its human resources department was only given the names of three shortlisted candidates by the former general manager, Grindley with Ms Ramharrack being one of them.

“The first thing I would say is that it’s unusual…to put an advertisement on the first of January which is New Year’s Day is not one that you expect to be widely read I suspect and to have a closed date by Friday of that week,” McNeill commented.

According to the report Ramharrack who was employed on February 13, 2017 at an annualised salary of $10.5 million was granted an increase that took her salary to just over $13 million just over 30 days after she started and while she was still on four months’ probation. Jackson pointed out that the increase, according to the report submitted by Petrojam, was retroactive to her start date of February 13 and based on the heavy international relations component of her portfolio.

According to the report, as pointed out by Jackson,  Ramharrack “demanded” the increase.

But Ramharrack who was present at the meeting pushed back.

“I do know that this is going to be front-page news tomorrow,” Ramharrack commented as she responded to Jackson.

She said persons commenting on the circumstances surrounding her employment at Petrojam, are unaware of the facts.

“No way did I demand an increase in salary, no way did I thwart the process at Petrojam, no way that I am incompetent as executing the role as HR manager as persons would want to believe. I am competent in all the HR service delivery areas…and I am a little disappointed (that) persons are speaking on my behalf without knowing the facts,” Ramharrack stated.

Responding, Jackson said he merely read from the report provide by Petrojam. He asked Ramharrack whether she was disputing what was contained in the report to which the HR manager responded: “I am only saying and cautioning that whatever is presented here not all the time persons have the knowledge of what is presented, and if it is that I am somebody who is going to be made a public mockery (of) at least I must have a say on what is presented here.”

She insisted that due process was followed and that she was not aware of any anomalies. Questions have been raised about the circumstances under which Ramharrack was employed, including her qualification for the job.

It was also revealed at the PAAC that prior to her employment at Petrojam she sat on at least two Government boards – PCJ which is the parent company for Petrojam and the Spectrum Management Authority.

Petrojam has been embroiled in a deepening scandal since allegations surfaced in May about questionable spending and contractual arrangements, cost overruns, nepotism and cronyism and numerous breaches of Government’s procurement guidelines. Three board members and the general manager have resigned and Cabinet Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley stripped of the energy portfolio.

Three entities – the Integrity Commission, the Auditor General’s department and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency are conducting investigations at the state-owned entity.

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