Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says an announcement will be made in short order on the specific policy actions that will be taken by Cabinet regarding weaknesses in the governance and management at the State-run oil refinery, Petrojam, once all the relevant information has been gathered.
Mr. Holness was speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (June 26), where he provided details about a June 25 Cabinet meeting to look into a preliminary report on the operations of Petrojam and specific allegations in the public domain.
“There were some issues reported on that needed further clarity to better inform Cabinet’s decisions. Therefore, the Cabinet will task the Public Accountability Inspectorate [of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service] to urgently gather further information on matters related to the direct expenditure of public funds, including but not limited to donations, and the construction of a wall,” he indicated.
He noted that the Cabinet Secretary has been tasked to compile the relevant pieces of legislation, regulations and policy guidelines in order to address the areas of weaknesses identified and close the existing gaps.
The Prime Minister told the House that Cabinet noted the call from various stakeholders for a forensic audit into the operations of Petrojam.
“The Cabinet shares the view that a detailed investigation into the management and governance of Petrojam is necessary and recalls that in 2010, the Auditor General reviewed a special forensic audit done by Papineau Consulting in 2009 on Petrojam. The Auditor General presented its findings on June 17, 2010, so Mr. Speaker, it is not the first time that a forensic audit has been done on Petrojam,” he pointed out.
Mr. Holness said that Cabinet is fully aware that the Auditor General is undertaking an investigation into the operations of Petrojam and that other independent bodies may also be conducting their own enquiries.
He said that in the interim, Cabinet plans to take certain policy actions to ensure that Petrojam functions with probity, transparency and accountability, and that is why the Public Accountability Inspectorate has been asked to investigate certain aspects that “we didn’t get clarity on, and to do it quickly, so that we can make the policy and management decisions that need to be made”.
He said based on the results, Cabinet will prepare policy directions for the new Chairman and Board members.
“An immediate action, thereafter, will be the convening of a full board of Jamaican and Venezuelan directors to address the identified weaknesses in the governance and management of the entity and ensure that government policy and systems of accountability are implemented,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr. Holness said the Cabinet is committed to ensuring transparency and forthrightness in addressing the challenges at Petrojam, adding that the report received and observations will be shared with the Auditor General and any other investigative body.
“The Government appreciates that in this age of social media and unfiltered information, the public needs to be constantly informed and assured of accurate information. The Government is, therefore, even more constrained to ensure that it does its due diligence,” he added.