$1.7m for no work as Petrotrin buys out exec's deal after hiring error

A $1.7 mil­lion con­tract buy­out to a hired for­eign­er whose ser­vices were even­tu­al­ly deemed not nec­es­sary, some $23,770 spent on cater­ing lunch for two days and mil­lions paid to con­sul­tants and re­cruit­ment com­pa­nies.

The fig­ures were laid out by Op­po­si­tion sen­a­tor Ger­ald Ramdeen in his con­tri­bu­tion to yes­ter­day’s Sen­ate de­bate on the vest­ing of Petrotrin as­sets to Her­itage Pe­tro­le­um, Paria Fu­el Trad­ing Com­pa­ny and Guaracara Re­fin­ing.

“It is a web of il­le­gal­i­ty tak­ing place left, right and cen­ter,” Ramdeen said.

He said the three com­pa­nies were all in­cor­po­rat­ed on Oc­to­ber 5, 2018 and Petrotrin paid law firm John­son Ca­ma­cho and Sons some $168,988 for a few min­utes of work.

“All it (in­cor­po­ra­tion process) re­quires is some­body sit­ting in an of­fice and fill­ing in the blanks. This Petrotrin wants to tell the coun­try that they have no mon­ey, that they’re bank­rupt,” Ramdeen said.

Ramdeen al­so pro­vid­ed what he claimed was de­tailed ev­i­dence of wild spend­ing by the Petrotrin board even as the com­pa­ny is wind­ing down to to­tal shut­down by the end of the month. He vouched for the au­then­tic­i­ty of the doc­u­ments he quot­ed from, say­ing they were not dropped in his mail­box but rather leaked to him by a Peo­ple’s Na­tion­al Move­ment (PNM) Cab­i­net mem­ber and a mem­ber of the Petrotrin board.

“You know what was told to me when it was giv­en to me by a mem­ber of that Cab­i­net led by the Ho­n­ourable Kei­th Christo­pher Row­ley? They said, ‘Ramdeen, we want you to ex­pose this’ be­cause we don’t have any choice in the Cab­i­net when they bring it, we just have to agree,” Ramdeen said.

Ramdeen said ac­cord­ing to a let­ter he had, which was sent by Petrotrin to En­er­gy Min­is­ter Franklin Khan and dat­ed Au­gust 8, Chyau Lin, from Chica­go, was re­tained by Petrotrin to work on the down­stream as­pects of the new com­pa­ny. How­ev­er, when it was lat­er de­ter­mined the com­pa­ny would no longer be mov­ing to down­stream—Petrotrin had to “re­im­burse” Lin for his signed con­tract.

Ac­cord­ing to the let­ter, ob­tained by Guardian Me­dia, Petrotrin chair­man Wil­fred Es­pinet wrote to Khan seek­ing as­sis­tance to se­cure Lin’s work per­mit.

“Petrotrin is cur­rent­ly in­volved in a re­or­gan­i­sa­tion ex­er­cise aimed at in­ter alia as­sign­ing the req­ui­site skillset to en­sure Petrotrin’s busi­ness sur­vival and growth. Fol­low­ing our re­view of the top man­age­ment at Petrotrin, it was de­ter­mined that a Head Down­stream ex­ec­u­tive was a crit­i­cal de­fi­cien­cy,” the let­ter stat­ed.

Petrotrin said it had con­duct­ed an in­ter­na­tion­al search and “af­ter an ex­haus­tive process” Lin was cho­sen. The process to re­cruit Lin be­gan back in June, three months be­fore Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley for­mal­ly an­nounced the shut­down of Petrotrin.

“So there was no­body avail­able to do this job lo­cal­ly?” Ramdeen asked the House.

Ramdeen al­so pro­vid­ed de­tails of con­sul­tan­cy costs in­curred by Petrotrin be­tween Oc­to­ber 2017 and Oc­to­ber 2018. In those doc­u­ments, there was a sin­gle day pay­ment of $1,729,372.58 on Sep­tem­ber 21, 2018, to Lin for “re­im­burse­ment for ex­pens­es as per con­tract.”

Ac­cord­ing to those doc­u­ments, al­so ob­tained by Guardian Me­dia, Petrotrin spent some $7 mil­lion for help with in­ter­na­tion­al re­cruit­ment.

One com­pa­ny, Egon Zehn­der Ltd, was paid $4.5 mil­lion for three months’ work while an­oth­er re­cruit­ment com­pa­ny, Pro­fes­sion­al Re­sources So­lu­tions, was paid $3.739 mil­lion for two months’ work.

In the doc­u­ments, a cater­ing com­pa­ny, Su­perb Cater­ers Ltd, was paid $23,770 for cater­ing meals for two meet­ings at the Pointe-a-Pierre staff club on Oc­to­ber 11 and 17, 2018.

Petrotrin, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments, al­so re­tained the ser­vices of Caribbean Cor­po­rate Clin­ic, a com­pa­ny owned by con­sul­tant Shafeek Sul­tan Khan. That com­pa­ny’s in­voic­es to­talled over $900,000 be­tween March and Oc­to­ber.

Ramdeen blast­ed the Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to shut down Petrotrin be­cause of its fi­nan­cial bur­den on the econ­o­my while mon­ey was still be­ing haem­or­rhaged at this stage.

“In the sea­son of giv­ing, I wait­ing for this Gov­ern­ment, at the last sit­ting of the ses­sion, to get up and talk about the sea­son of giv­ing. In the sea­son of giv­ing, they take away 10,000 jobs,” he said.

“I won­der if any­body un­der­stands that when De­cem­ber 25 reach, 10,000 fam­i­lies won’t have a salary. Peo­ple fac­ing Christ­mas with­out an in­come.”

Guardian Me­dia reached out to Petrotrin for com­ment but was told that Es­pinet was not in the coun­try and no com­ment was pos­si­ble at this time.

En­er­gy Min­is­ter Franklin Khan made a con­tri­bu­tion to the de­bate af­ter Ramdeen’s claims but did not ad­dress any of the mat­ters Ramdeen raised. Khan al­so did not re­spond to sub­se­quent ques­tions on the Petrotrin mis­spending the $1.7 mil­lion on a failed hire or the oth­er al­le­ga­tions of mis­spending raised by Ramdeen.

- by Renuka Singh

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