Sun | Oct 20, 2019

$38M FOR PETROJAM AUDIT

Published:Wednesday | October 9, 2019 | 12:18 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke
Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke

The allocation of $38 million to commence a forensic audit of oil losses at Petrojam is a demonstration that the Government is serious about untangling the issues at the state-owned refinery, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke has asserted.

The allocation was made to the Auditor General’s Department (AuGD) and is one of several new items included in the revised Budget for the current fiscal year, which was approved by the House of Representatives yesterday.

The revised expenditures also include $458 million to carry out emergency repairs to roadways damaged by the recent flood rains and $200 million to provide “social support” for elderly persons who are not eligible to access the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH), the state welfare scheme.

According to Clarke, the independent forensic audit of Petrojam, which was ordered by Prime Minister Andrew Holness last December following a damning report by the AuGD, will be a multi-year undertaking. He said the $38 million will ensure the process gets under way “speedily”.

“We believe that some of the problems are of current era, [some] are long-standing in nature, and the Government is using resources to ensure that we can get to the bottom of these problems,” he said.

The Pamela Monroe Ellis-led AuGD, in an audit report to Parliament last December, revealed that over the past five years, Petrojam declared that it used 1.5 million barrels of oil valued at $12.8 billion during normal refinery production.

However, the audit found that the refinery could not account for almost half – or 600,684 barrels – valued at $5.2 billion.

To underscore the magnitude of the problem, the auditor general said that for the year 2013-14, Petrojam could not account for 115,793 barrels of oil. In 2017-18, the entity another 184,951 barrels were unaccounted for.

... NGOs to assiste with welfare programme

Clarke disclosed that the Government plans to work with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to administer its $200-million programme to benefit elderly persons who are poor.

“We are going to work with NGOs who are specialists in that particular area to help with the intervention to address some of the needs of the elderly,” the finance minister told the House.

“PATH was designed for the poor with children. So if you are elderly and you are poor and you don’t have any school-age children then the PATH programme doesn’t really work for you,” he reasoned.

The revised 2019-20 Budget is $50 billion more than the $803 billion that was approved by lawmakers in March. Just over $45 billion is for recurrent or housekeeping expenses.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com