(Jamaica Gleaner) Teams from the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) and the new Integrity Commission on Tuesday swooped down on the state-owned oil refinery, Petrojam, confiscating documents and computers amid allegations of nepotism, corruption and cost overruns at the entity.
MOCA stepped into Petrojam following calls from the parliamentary Opposition for the investigative body to probe corruption at the oil refinery. The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and other private-sector groups also called for a forensic audit at Petrojam and the Universal Service Fund.
At a hastily called press conference in the Opposition’s offices at Gordon House on Tuesday, Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips expressed surprise that following a 12-hour Cabinet meeting on Monday, which discussed “the loss or fraudulent diversion of hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds at Petrojam, the Government failed to make a statement to Parliament on the issue”.
He told journalists that Energy Minister Andrew Wheatley was absent from the House and that the prime minister did not make a statement to the country. Phillips lamented that the questions on Petrojam that had been due from last week were not answered.
“The treatment of questions in the House that we witnessed today (Tuesday) unfortunately has not been unusual,” said Phillips, adding that it had become a practice for questions to be ignored.
The opposition leader said that questions which should have been answered on Monday in Parliament relate to the Vacuum Distillation Unit at Petrojam.
Commenting on the proposed VDU, Manchester Central MP Peter Bunting noted that information obtained by the Opposition suggested that the contract could cost J$5 billion more than an estimate submitted by engineers.
“A US engineering firm was engaged by Petrojam to do an estimate of the Vacuum Distillation Unit upgrade, and their estimate was US$86 million using US engineers,” said Bunting.
He noted that the management of Petrojam had commenced negotiations with a Chinese firm and, based on documents submitted to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee, “it shows that they have so far … reached a price of US $119 million, [which is] US$40 million beyond what the engineering firm had estimated”. This converts to more than J$5 billion, he said, adding that the contract had not yet been signed.