Monday 19 August, 2019

PNP calls for MOCA probe of corruption allegations at Petrojam

The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) is calling for the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) to probe allegations of corruption at the state-owned oil refinery, Petrojam.

The PNP made the call on Wednesday, a day after the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) indicated that the Cabinet had instructed the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, Hillary Alexander, to prepare a report on the operations of Petrojam, with specific attention to "various allegations in the public domain".  Allegations include cronyism, nepotism as well as breaches of Government procurement guidelines.

The OPM said the report is to be ready for the next meeting of Cabinet, “where it is expected that the permanent secretary and the senior management team of Petrojam will attend and present the report”.

But that is not good enough for the Opposition PNP, which on Tuesday voiced its disapproval at the decision of the Government to have the Energy Ministry lead the probe into the allegations of impropriety at the public oil refinery. The PNP said the ministry has oversight responsibility for Petrojam and, as such, would be investigating itself. Therefore, the party wants the police to get involved.

Specifically, the PNP wants MOCA to probe the arrangement whereby the former Petrojam Chairman, Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh, was reportedly reimbursed for travel expenses on at least two occasions for trips he was said to have not undertaken. Bahado-Singh reportedly submitted claims for trips to London and Brazil for both airfare and per diem even though he seemingly did not make the trips.

In the case of the London trip, the amount was US$8,910, while in the case of Brazil, the amount was US$7,773.

Bahado-Singh has reportedly reimbursed the amounts over the past two weeks, although the trips which he was said to have not attended were scheduled for several months ago

The PNP also wants the police to probe the arrangement between Asha Corporation and Petrojam. General Manager at Petrojam, Floyd Grindley, told Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) last week, that Asha Corporation, which is incorporated in the United States, provided services that were urgently needed by Petrojam, but were not available locally. However, Winston Watson, the Group Managing Director of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), the parent company for Petrojam, told the PAAC that the services that were provided by Asha Corporation were in fact available within the company.

Apart from a consultant to whom several cheques were made payable, Grindley could not provide any details on Asha Corporation, including who its board of directors were, and the range of services it provided to Petrojam. This was despite indicating that it was he who approached the company.

And the Opposition wants MOCA to probe why the new perimeter wall at Petrojam was constructed at a cost of $96.8 million when an initial estimate was reportedly given by the National Works Agency (NWA) for just under $30 million.

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