Tue | Jul 16, 2019

Palmer: PAC hearings affecting staff morale at Petrojam

Published:Wednesday | June 19, 2019 | 12:09 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

Employees at Petrojam have been left demoralised after nearly six months of public hearings by a parliamentary committee that has shone a searchlight on alleged acts of nepotism, cronyism and corruption which cost the state-owned oil refinery millions of dollars.

Carol Palmer, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, says employees have indicated that the hearings by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament have affected them personally, with some reporting that they have been subjected to abuse in public.

“We now have to build back lives,” Palmer said yesterday.

“The staff has been severely affected by this process. The staff has expressed how it has affected them on a personal level … how they have been exposed to abuse in the public space,” she added during a meeting of the PAC at Gordon House.

The disclosure comes as the PAC wrapped up its hearings into the damning findings of a performance audit of the state-owned oil refinery.

The audit was conducted by the Auditor General’s Department.

PAC Chairman Mark Golding expressed sympathy for the employees, but insisted that the hearings were necessitated by the “nepotism, cronyism and, frankly, the corruption that took place there”.

“The committee had a duty to go through the [audit] report in detail,” said Golding.

Palmer acknowledged that the hearings, which started in January, were important, but cautioned that “we have to be careful how we go about it”.

BAD PUBLIC IMAGE

“There is an image that has been created of this entity. A lot of work will have to be done with the staff of Petrojam as they try to rebuild their image,” said Palmer.

Among the things unearthed during the PAC hearings was that Yolande Ramharrack, the former Petrojam human resource manager who was hired although she did not meet the educational requirement, was given a $15.1-million separation agreement, complete with a non-disclosure agreement, despite facing a slew of disciplinary charges.

The hearings also shed light on a $9-million donation made by Petrojam to the Sydenham Citizens’ Association in the constituency of former Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley, which is now the subject of an investigation by the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency.

Petrojam revealed that Lionel Myrie, a director of its parent company, Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, was the person who submitted an email requesting the donation on behalf of the association. The email also indicated that the McCook’s Pen Citizens’ Association, which requested the $9 million for a community project, was no longer interested in the funds.

Members of the McCook’s Pen Citizens’ Association have said publicly that they did not cancel their request for the sponsorship.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com