Timeline: The Petrojam Scandal

Background to the Issue

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, has described the controversy surrounding state-owned oil refinery, Petrojam, as “the mother of all scandals”. Petrojam’s oversight was called into question and placed under the microscope after Opposition Minister Julian Robinson called for a probe into its operations, based on information indicating “widespread nepotism, where persons who lack the appropriate experience and expertise are being put into critical positions within that entity … victimisation of staff, of persons who are standing up for principle … either being fired or sidelined”. A series of revelations have since emerged that allegedly indicate mismanagement, corruption and nepotism. See below a list of news stories surrounding the issue, as they unfold.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis has released a damning report on the operations of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) and its affiliate, the state-owned oil refinery Petrojam, pointing to “explicit acts of nepotism” at both entities and deficiencies in human-resource recruitment and management practices.

In a 113-page report tabled just before Parliament adjourned last evening, Monroe Ellis charged that while Petrojam has policies that guide its recruitment and employment, its application of these policies was not always consistent.

“For example, we found instances where two individuals closely connected to employees of Petrojam were employed, despite being rejected by the interviewing panel,” the report said.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Friday, August 3, 2018

Peter Phillips says adequate time has now passed since the resignation of Wheatley as minister of science and technology for Holness to share information regarding his replacement and future direction and control of the ministry.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Monday, July 30, 2018

Andrew Wheatley resigns. The Gleaner reports that the former leadership of Petrojam spent more than J$1.4 million (US$10,500) to host a ‘staff party’ for 25 guests at Palms at Palmyra in MoBay, St James, on September 19, 2017; less than 24 hours before they racked up another bill of just under J$5 million (US$37,827) at the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall for accommodation and food for a four-day staff retreat and board of directors meeting.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

“By the end of 2016, Dr Andrew Wheatley had put in place new management teams at Petrojam, NESol, and USF, headed by first-time CEOs, except for Ms Buchanan, who had a disastrous stint at Caymanas Track Ltd. In addition to interlocking directorates, laced with people known to him in professional and political life, he also replaced the top management team in the agencies under his ambit. … The interlocking directorates gave Minister Wheatley the perfect platform to exert complete control of mandates, policies, finances, staffing and outcomes. In other words, the minister was responsible for the systems architecture of MSET,” says Colin Campbell in his opinion article.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Friday, July 13, 2018

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips has signalled the likely withdrawal of bipartisan support for political, legislative and governance issues if Prime Minister Andrew Holness fails to relieve Science and Technology Minister Andrew Wheatley of all his Cabinet responsibilities over the Petrojam scandal.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Friday, July 6, 2018

Petrojam workers staged a protest on Thursday, refuting claims that their morale has gone up, and questioning the existence of a survey quoted by Wheatley, which they say they have no knowledge of.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Yolande Ramharrack, Petrojam human resource manager, admits to the PAAC that the advertisement to which she responded for the position required a Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree, which she did not have in February 2017 at the time of applying, and still does not have. Her salary started at $6.9m in 2017, but her total package flew to more than $12m in a year as she benefitted from an increase in the salary band. Then it moved to more than $13.04m when all allowances were added.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Wheatley insists that no agreement had been signed and no money spent on the planned multimillion-dollar upgrade of the vacuum distillation unit (VDU), but that a Chinese firm has been recommended.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Wheatley is questioned by Parliament about the compensation packages for the Human Resources Manager at Petrojam, donations made by Petrojam in 2017, funds advanced to the Chairman of Petrojam for a trip to London, a retainer paid by Petrojam to an entertainment company, the ‘toxic’ work environment which has contributed to employees leaving in droves, the dismissal of the former HR manager, and progress in relation to the Vaccuum Distillation Unit (VDU).

Monday, July 2, 2018

In a press release from the Office of the Prime Minister, Cabinet outlined several decisions regarding the ongoing saga at Petrojam. Key among them is that the energy portfolio will be taken from Dr Andrew Wheatley and placed in the Office of the Prime Minister. Wheatley will retain oversight of science and technology.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Columnist Garnett Roper refers to “protest by the Venezuelans, who are 49 per cent owners of Petrojam along with the Government of Jamaica which owns 51 per cent. … For more than nine months now, the Venezuelans have demanded answers for more than US$10m of value not accounted for. The 15-page memo by Venezuela to their Jamaican counterpart raised questions about US$2m of pilferage and US$5m of crude oil converted to products for which no revenue flows can be traced. The Venezuelan memo is the reason that the Petrojam board has failed to meet for more than nine months.”

Friday, June 29, 2018

The National Integrity Action (NIA) joins the chorus calling for the resignation of Andrew Wheatley regarding the ongoing controversy.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Chairman of Marathon Insurance Brokers (MIB) Richard Burgher dismisses the “defence offered by Petrojam” through its parent ministry for extending an insurance contract for two years at a cost of $420 million, what he deemed “the highest possible price they can pay for insurance”, when there were cheaper alternatives.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Teams from the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) and the new Integrity Commission confiscate documents and computers from Petrojam offices. The PNP says based on figures presented at Parliament’s PAAC, there could be a cost overrun on another project at Petrojam, specifically concerning the vacuum distillation unit. Peter Bunting charges that Petrojam has engaged a Chinese firm that offered to carry out the work on the VDU project at a cost of US$119 million, or US$40 million more than was proposed by a United States-based entity, resulting in a potential overrun of approximately J$5 billion. Meanwhile, the Financial Gleaner quotes an audit report by PDVSA, the state-owned Venezuelan oil company which owns 49 per cent of Petrojam, which states that Petrojam spent over $14 billion or 74 per cent of its domestic expenditure over a two-year period to last October via direct and emergency sourcing, rather than competitive bidding contracts, even though “there were items that could have been awarded under a competitive method”. The report also suggested ‘less-than-robust record-keeping and data analysis that made audit verification, in many instances, difficult’.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Chaos erupts in Parliament over Minister Wheatley’s silence after repeated questions from the Opposition on Petrojam. Specific questions going unanswered: Will the Minister describe the process being used to select the contractor to upgrade the Vacuum Distillation Unit at Petrojam? Will the Minister list the management and technical personnel that have left Petrojam since March 2016? Will the Minister state the compensation packages for the current Human Resource Manager and the previous HR manager and, if there is a difference, justify the difference in terms of their competence and experience in industrial relations and personnel matters? Meanwhile, Chairman of Marathon Insurance Brokers (MIB), Richard Burgher, is demanding answers from the Government as to why Petrojam turned down a tender offer to provide insurance services for its workers, but awarded the contract to a competitor, even though MIB’s proposal was $420 million cheaper.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips is calling for the immediate resignation of Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley for what he has described as “the mother of all scandals” at  Petrojam.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Friday, June 22, 2018

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Chevril Shaw, the Project Manager for Petrojam’s Vacuum Distillation Unit (VDU) project, and Roderick Codner, the Senior Supervisor in charge of Reliability and Maintenance, both resign, effective June 30.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Paulwell tells RJR News that it is unacceptable that there has been no statement from the Government in the wake of the resignation of the three Jamaican members of the Petrojam board. Issues going unanswered include: a J$13-million retainer the company paid to a firm for entertainment and public relations services, the $12-million annual salary granted to the human resource manager, the engagement of an overseas consultant for a project which, the Opposition argues, could have been done by the oil refinery’s parent company, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

“Where violations of rules and regulations are confirmed, action must be taken to rectify irregularities and to apply sanctions, up to, and including the minister, if he is found to be in breach,” says anti-corruption campaigner Professor Trevor Munroe.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Opposition Senator Lambert Brown questions whether the Andrew Holness-led Cabinet signed off on a $96-million contract to erect a wall at Petrojam, noting that the original bill of quantity estimated that the project should cost nearly $30 million.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Members of the PAAC blast Petrojam for engaging and paying Rodney Davis, a Canada-based consultant, US$17,000 (J$2.2 million) per month for a project which could be handled locally. Dr Wheatley summons the three Jamaican directors on Petrojam’s Board – Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh, Harold Malcolm and Richard Creary – to discuss what he said were several grave and troubling matters at the refinery.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Petrojam chairman Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh repays an airline ticket of over US$7,000 (J$900,000) for travel to a meeting in the United Kingdom, which he did not attend. The meeting took place in February, and Bahado-Singh repaid the ticket only last week, after Opposition spokesperson on energy, Phillip Paulwell, brought the issue to Parliament’s attention. The Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) is concerned about a breach of procurement procedures, as Petrojam breached government policy regarding foreign travel, which requires airline tickets to be booked through a travel agency.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Petrojam board of directors reject claims of any wrongdoing.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis is conducting an audit at the government-run entity.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Opposition spokesman on Science and Technology Julian Robinson calls on the new Integrity Commission and the auditor general to urgently examine the operations of the state-owned oil refinery, Petrojam, noting that the viability of the entity is being threatened.