Thursday 22 October, 2020

Wheatley refutes claims by Integrity Commission

Dr Andrew Wheatley

Dr Andrew Wheatley

Former Energy Minister, Dr Andrew Wheatley has refuted allegations made against him in the Integrity Commission's report on the findings of its probe of the state-owned Petrojam oil refinery.

In its report, the Integrity Commission accused Wheatly of being “disingenuous” in some of his responses to the director of investigation for the agency during the investigation.

Among the allegations, the commission said it found that Wheatley was less than truthful regarding his relationship with one Sophia Deer, who he reportedly described as his former technical assistant. Deer has now been identified by the commission as the mother of Wheatley’s nephew.

However, in a statement Wednesday, the former energy minister said "the assertions being made by the Integrity Commission are damaging, spurious and belligerent.

"They are baseless and should be retracted immediately," said.

Specifically, regarding Sophia Deer, Wheatley said he was never asked about "any familial or historic link to Ms Deer" during the investigations. 

"I was only asked about her competencies, ability to serve and the capacity in which she served. I answered all questions posed to me in a truthful and forthright manner. I could not answer questions that I was not asked. I remained available to answer any subsequent questions that may have arisen. There was no impropriety on my part. Therefore, the Director of Investigation was correct in citing no instances of nepotism and/or improprieties in my actions," he said.

Wheatley was forced out of the Cabinet at the height of the Petrojam scandal in July 2018. He has been thrown into the spotlight once more as the commission finally made public its long-awaited report.

See his response to the report in full below.

I welcome the report prepared by the Integrity Commission regarding the Petrojam investigation. Though I have not had a chance to read it, I have heard media reports, in which parts of the report call into question my honesty, character and reputation. I categorically deny any wrongdoing or dishonesty, as well as refute the claims of nepotism. 

My main intention in public life, has always been to serve the people of Jamaica. I have maintained above board in my dealings at and with Petrojam and in my former capacity as Minister of Science, Energy and Technology. 

Specifically, I would like to address two matters. Firstly that of Ms Sophia Deer. During the interview mentioned in the Integrity Commissions’ report, I was never asked about any familial or historic link to Ms Deer, I was only asked about her competencies, ability to serve and the capacity in which she served. I answered ALL questions posed to me in a truthful and forthright manner. I could NOT answer questions that I was not asked. I remained available to answer any subsequent questions that may have arisen. There was no impropriety on my part. Therefore, the Director of Investigation was correct in citing no instances of nepotism and/or improprieties in my actions. 

Secondly, it is being circulated that I knew the members that were assigned to the Board of Petrojam and alluded to some sort of collusion. I am unaware of any public board (appointed by a Minister of Government under any administration), without the vast majority of its members being known by the Minister. Being in a position of trust, I appointed persons who had previously demonstrated the ability to serve,  were qualified and of solid character and reputation. It must be noted that ALL public Boards are subject to the approval of Cabinet. 

The assertions being made by the Integrity Commission are damaging, spurious and belligerent. They are baseless and should be retracted immediately.

I am a committed Member of Parliament serving South Central St. Catherine for a number of years. I have served as Councillor of the Naggo Head Division and was, Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Spanish Town as well as Vice‐Chairman of the St Catherine Parish Council. I was also Vice President of the Association of Local Government Authorities of Jamaica. I am an accomplished academic and a British Commonwealth Scholar holding a Bachelor’s Degree in biochemistry and chemistry and a Doctorate in Basic Medicine from the University of the West Indies and the Imperial College of the University of London. I am a senior lecturer in basic medicine and a research scientist at the University of the West Indies where my work has focused on diabetes management, reversal of the effects of cocaine addiction, genetic engineering against disease and stress conditions, pharmaceutical properties of indigenous materials and tissue culturing. 

It is my intention to continue serving my Constituents and also my Country in whatever capacity I can and use this opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to honesty, integrity and the rule of law and to repudiate the efforts of those who would seek to tarnish persons who serve with innuendos and half-truths. 

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