T&T Energy Minister gets ‘fake oil’ report from board

Senate vice president Nigel de Freitas lays a paper as PNM Senator Allyson Baksh listens during yesterday’s sitting of the Senate.

(Trinidad Guardian) The final report of Petrotrin’s internal audit probe into the “volume discrepancy” allegedly involving the company and A&V Oil and Gas was finalised and being forwarded to Energy Minister Franklin Khan yesterday.

Khan revealed this in the Senate in reply to Opposition queries on the Petrotrin audit report controversy revealed by Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar last weekend.

Khan yesterday described it as a “volume discrepancy” issue. It has brought the Dr Keith Rowley administration into sharp focus particularly because of alleged players involved.

Questions on the issue posed to Khan by Opposition Senators Wade Mark, Gerald Ramdeen and Wayne Sturge played out in the presence of Government backbench senator Allyson Baksh, the daughter of the company’s owner.

Khan said Petrotrin submitted an initial report to him on August 4 indicating they’d recorded discrepancies in the volume of oil shipped from their Exploration and Production Department to the volumes received from the refinery. Petrotrin said an internal audit was commissioned and was continuing then. The report was originally submitted by Petrotrin’s Internal Audit Division to Petrotrin’s president, he added.

“Procedurally, what happens after, is it goes to the Petrotrin board’s audit team for review; then the full board for deliberations and what course of action may be taken after.

“What happened last weekend was this report was leaked and is now in the public domain. So the board met urgently on Tuesday and Wednesday to consider the report’s findings,” Khan said.

He added: “My understanding is due process was taking place at Petrotrin. Serious allegations are being made and procedurally it had to go through these steps.

“What brought this matter to the fore is the leak that occurred last weekend. It’s gotten the whole population anxious about the outcome. I cannot breach due process and due process has occurred.”

Khan said the steps he intends to take on the alleged volume discrepancies, “…is to let due process take place. As we speak the board’s audit team and Petrotrin’s board are considering the report. They, in their own judgement, will determine what further actions are needed. At this point I cannot intervene and will not. I want to be very particular that due process takes place in a matter like this.”

UNC’s Ramdeen’s said Petrotrin had halted a (US)$6 million payment to A&V Oil and Gas over June-July. Khan confirmed that while the audit was being done Petrotrin had stopped payment pending probe outcome.

Khan said at this point, Petrotrin’s board hadn’t taken any decision to refer the matter to the Fraud Squad.

Whether he’d direct this be done, Khan replied, “My position is to let due process takes its course. When the Board makes its official recommendations to me, I’ll deliberate on it, consider our options and will so decide,”

Asked whether he’d refer it to the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Khan added, “Due process…I’m following this thing step by step. The report was leaked – by who we don’t know – the process is in progress. Let due process take its course and we’ll determine that in the shortest possible time.”

NAZIM BAKSH, DAUGHTER MUM ON ALLEGATIONS

People’s National Movement Senator Allyson Baksh yesterday told the T&T Guardian the Petrotrin fake oil allegation matter was under investigation and she therefore had no comment.

Her father Nazim was similarly tight-lipped. He returned from the US having been delayed by hurricane Irma last evening.

But sources close to A&V Drilling confirmed their attorneys had earlier issued letters regarding the allegations being made.

Expressing concern about this, they said the company’s name was being called “all over the place” and the allegations were being stated as “fact.” They added the company hadn’t done any wrong and had learned of the allegations in the papers. Sources added that it appeared to be geared to “get at the Government.”

During Thursday’s Senate exchanges on the Petrotrin issue, the UNC’s Gerald Ramdeen unsuccessfully attempted to have it debated as a matter of urgent public importance. It was necessary, he added, since it pertained to one operator – A&V Drilling – and the Catskill production field. He claimed the matter resulted in Petrotrin paying royalties to Government of approximately US$1.86 million for crude oil which wasn’t received over January-June 2017.

He said A&V Drilling continued operating the Catskill field and getting payment and despite Petrotrin’s internal audit report on the issue, Government took no steps to implement the report’s recommendations.

Senate President Christine Kangaloo said it didn’t qualify for debate under the regulation he’d presented it.

Around the Web

Comments