Monday 10 December, 2018

PNP calls for criminal investigation of ‘our’ stewardship of Petrojam

Julian Robinson

Julian Robinson

The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) is urging the police to “follow the money” to determine whether anyone illegally benefitted from public funds at the state-owned oil refinery, Petrojam, over recent years - including when the party was in Government.

At the same time, the PNP is calling for a forensic audit to be conducted at the scandal-hit refinery, following the publication on Tuesday of a damning 114-page report on an investigation by the Auditor General’s Department (AGD).

The probe by the AGD covered a five-year period from 2013, when the PNP formed the Government, and also looked at the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), Petrojam’s parent company.

In a statement since then, the PNP said the matter should be immediately referred to the commissioner of police to begin criminal investigations into a number of what it said appear to be questionable transactions, including the donation of funds, payments to consultants and direct contracting of suppliers.

“The authorities must follow the money until it is known who is responsible, and we anticipate that those (who may be) found guilty will be punished for their actions,” said PNP General Secretary, Julian Robinson.

The Opposition noted that the audit report raised issues which occurred at Petrojam when it was in office, and said it “welcomes a more detailed probe to determine who should be held accountable for the losses at the entity”.

The PNP said the forensic audit and the police investigation are necessary to ascertain what exactly took place at the oil refinery, and who were responsible for any misappropriation of public funds at the refinery.

The PNP said the forensic audit being called for should be thorough and consistent with the period of alleged gross irregularities at the entity.

The party also called for restitution by former Energy Minister, Dr Andrew Wheatley, and former Petrojam Chairman, Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh, of over $2.6 million that the refinery reportedly paid for personal parties which were held for them.

“They could not in good conscience expect the poor people of Jamaica to pay for their lavish personal parties, including a birthday cake for $130, 000 (at the time),” Robinson said.

According to the PNP, mere resignations from official posts are insufficient to compensate for the discrepancies that have been uncovered by the auditor general.

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