The Petrojam scandal continues to stain the Andrew Holness-led government as more information comes to light of the chaos and incompetence at the publicly run oil entity.
The Auditor General’s report and public disclosures of poor governance at Petrojam has shocked many Jamaicans and indeed damaged the country’s image in fighting corruption.
The ongoing parliamentary select committee hearings into Petrojam and ensuing debates in parliament has forced the government on the back foot for the past year. There is a sense that more startling revelations is still be revealed as these hearings continue in parliament. But for now here are some of the winners and losers of this drama.
- Prime Minister Andrew Holness – Despite taking over the portfolio – since Andrew Wheatley resigned as minister of energy in July 2018 – Holness has failed to stem the incompetence and poor governance. His delay of 6 months to appoint a new minister of energy (Fayval Williams) was unnecessary. Holness allowed a non-disclosure agreement with Yolande Ramharrack to be signed off under his watch and it backfired spectacularly in parliament.
- Andrew Wheatley, former Minister of Energy – What was he thinking? What was he doing? Will he testify at the PAC select committee hearings?
- Petrojam – A slick of a gravy train – supported by a 20 year old performance management system – that rewards staff incompetence with extraordinary bonuses masquerading as incentives.
- Alando Terrelonge, government MP, select committee member: At the PAAC select committee hearing on July 4 2018 Terrelonge said to Yolande Ramharrack. “you seem to be a people person, very confident.. You seem to have all the attributes of a HR manager that I would employ…..I can see that shining through”. That statement sounded bizarre at the time, even more perplexing given the revelations that has since come to light.
- Sancia Bennett-Templer – As one of most senior civil servants in the government, Bennett-Templer’s performance at the PAC hearings has been bungling. Either she came to the hearings ill-prepared or poorly advised, given she came into the post in late 2018. No surprise last Wednesday when she was transferred out – of the Office of the Prime Minister’s office – just hours after her latest appearance at the PAC hearings.
- Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Public Administration and Appropriation Committee (PAAC) Both chairpersons – Wykeham McNeil (PAAC) and Mark Golding (PAC) have been excellent in their control of the proceedings. Both committees have done an thorough job in scrutinizing the government officials. But these committees need some fine tuning in how they organise their interviews in order speed up the process. Special mention to MPs Morais Guy and Fitz Jackson for their public grilling of those officials.
- Yolande Ramharrack, former HR Manager, Petrojam – Despite being “unqualified” for the post of HR manager she managed to land the job in February 2017, get a bumper pay rise the same day, had her probation period waived and by late 2018 was facing 19 disciplinary charges. But resigned in 2018 with a fat pay settlement. Midas touch.
- Everald Warmington, MP, Minister of State & select committee member – Despite being a junior minister in the current government Warmington (as a select committee member) has not held back in his critical analysis of the governments officials at the Office of the Prime Minister’s Office and those from Petrojam. Seeing a junior minister publicly questioning officials from his own government is very unusual in any democratic country. But that’s Warmington for you and it is refreshing.
- Juliet Holness, Government MP, select committee member –With her extensive background in auditing and accountancy I have been impressed by the clarity of her questions and statements during the hearings. Balanced and assured. She has at times even calmed down the boisterous Warmington. This was the Holness who should have been the new minister of energy. Given she has sat through the hearings and heard first hand of the many failings across the energy portfolio.
- PBC TV – By streaming the committee hearings live on platforms such as You Tube, PBC TV has allowed Jamaicans at home and abroad to see the elected officials at work.
- Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding – In 2007 Golding decided to change the rules and allowed the Opposition in parliament to chair select committees. This move was done “in order to strengthen the effectiveness of the Opposition in the House”. The move has given back benchers (from both parties) the authority to really go after the government of the day whenever maladministration is found by oversight statutory bodies.
- There have been times at the select committee hearings where the style of questioning by MPs gets over complicated. Meaning crucial information gets ignored or misinterpreted during the exchanges. In order to speed up the process the select committees need to obtain detailed written answers (plus supporting documents) from the relevant officials before they appear at these public hearings. Such a move would cut out repetitive questioning and (hopefully) eliminates mixed messages by the officials. e.g. It should not have taken over 6 months for confirmation of Ms Ramharrack’s salary– she was asked this by MPs in July 2018 and the correct figure was finally disclosed in February 2019!
- The select committees must make better use of the officials that appear before them. There is no need for Pamela Monroe-Ellis – Auditor General – to sit through countless hours of these hearings and hardly have any questions. Best to bring Ms Monroe-Ellis in when she is required to testify over a lengthy period.
Still early days into the PAC select committee hearings (Tuesdays 10 a.m.). Expect further explosive testimonies and more fallout.
- IT’S NOW $13.3 million
- Former HR Manager faced 19 disciplinary charges
- “I am not hiding anything” – Andrew Holness
- Petrojam HR Manager resigns
- Wheatley resigns