PETROJAM SCANDAL: 'Surprise' parties for Wheatley, Bahado-Singh cost $2.5 MILLION; ONE cake costs US$1-THOUSAND

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The Auditor General's Department (AGD) has provided details of the two "surprise" parties, held three months apart, for then energy minister Dr Andrew Wheatley, and Perceval Bahado-Singh, former chairman of Petrojam, which cost taxpayers over $2.5 million.

The AGD said a copy of the invoice submitted by the hotel that hosted the party for the "then portfolio minister" shows that Petrojam was charged US$2,427 for "food and beverage", US$1,000 for a "four-tiered topsy turvy chocolate cake" and US$3,802 for "1-6 bedroom, ocean view."

Additionally, the AGD has revealed that Floyd Grindley, former general manager of Petrojam, disregarded the government's procurement guidelines when he engaged a consultant, in two separate contracts totalling $31 million, "without the approval of the board."

The revelations about the two parties were contained in a comprehensive audit of both Petrojam and its parent company, Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) tabled in Parliament yesterday, and come nearly three months after The Gleaner sought details from the state-owned company about the festivities.

According to the AGD, the second soiree, described in email correspondence as a "surprise party", was held for the "then portfolio minister" at a hotel in Montego Bay, St James on January 9 this year. But the audit revealed that four days before the party, Grindley approved the payment, passing the US$11,260 price tag to taxpayers.

The other soiree, described as a 'surprise birthday party" for the board chairman, was held at a hotel, also in Montego Bay, on September 9 last year. The invoice for US$10,507 was approved by Grindley on November 17 last year.

"On November 17, 2017 and January 5, 2018, Petrojam's General Manager approved payments for invoices totalling $2.6 million (US$21,767) in relation to two parties, which were of a personal and private nature, having nothing to do with the operations of Petrojam," the audit report said.

The AGD said a copy of the invoice submitted by the hotel that hosted the party for the "then portfolio minister" shows that Petrojam was charged US$2,427 for "food and beverage", US$1,000 for a "four-tiered topsy turvy chocolate cake" and US$3,802 for "1-6 bedroom, ocean view."

The audit revealed, too, that Petrojam used the direct contracting method to hire a consultant to provide services, under two contracts dated June 22 and November 3 last year, related to its 35th anniversary planning activities.

According to the AGD, the general manager "exceeded his authority and breached the procurement guidelines in approving the two contracts valued at $14 million and $27 million, respectively."

"The general manager exceeded his authority limit in the context where the value of the contract surpassed the $1.5 million threshold and the justification provided for the use of the direct contracting methodology above the threshold was not in keeping with the allowable circumstances outlined in the procurement guidelines," the report noted.

The AGD said up to May this year, the consultant had been paid $11.7 million under the first contract. "However, we could not determine the basis on which the payments were made, given that the consultant's invoice submitted for payment only referenced the work done as 'retainer fee for public relations consultancy services," the report noted.

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