Tue | Dec 11, 2018

Is Winston Watson competent to lead Petrojam?

Published:Friday | December 7, 2018 | 12:18 AM

The following was written by a concerned employee of Petrojam.

How competent is the current general manager, Winston Watson, in the operations of the Petrojam refinery? The just-published auditor general's report, full of sordid details of nepotism, waste and corruption, as well as my personal knowledge of the inner workings of Petrojam, tells a compelling tale.

As an apolitical current employee of Petrojam, I am perturbed how it is that under the People's National Party administration, Mr Watson was seconded from Petrojam to the parent body, Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, in 2014.

The current administration again seconded him from Petrojam to PCJ in 2016. The one constant snicker with this picture is biased contract assignments and closed bunker C/crude oil/clean petroleum products transactions! I am baffled as to whether or not Mr Watson's incompetence, or otherwise, is what should be publicised, or if it is the incompetence of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in not being able to find a worthy, experienced replacement for the GM, vs taking a tarnished twice-discarded reject!

For the full extent of my almost three decades of employment at this refinery, this facility has seethed of corruption, and of a few benefiting from unnecessary charges and cost overruns associated from shutdowns, contracts and everyday charges.

 

FULL INVESTIGATION NEEDED

 

Sadly, in listening to the recent general debates regarding the refinery upgrade and costs associated from the obsolete equipment, I have been floored, as over the years, I have seen where way more money has been spent 'patching industrially rotted, obsolete 50-year-old equipment' vs replacing or upgrading it. This is where my colleagues seem to make the most money!

I would be remiss in stating that the current GM is directly responsible for this dysfunction. Suffice it to say, he needs to be fully investigated, as there have been many unanswered questions about how the operations here have been run over the years.

The extent of daily pilferage from the refinery and abuse of assets owned by every tax-paying and petrol-buying citizen of Jamaica need to be looked into! In recent months, more than $60 million of materials and equipment have gone missing from the refinery warehouse.

In my opinion, the JLP has failed miserably in putting back a manager who was seconded for reasons not made public and are failing miserably in trying to run the monster Ministry of Energy from the OPM evidently without conceding that this is the devil's child of all the ministries of government because of the monies involved.

Non-performing public servants should never be put in roles for which they are not qualified or have proven competency. What is different about the current Winston Watson running Petrojam and being seconded twice? Was this the case with the ethanol purchase made by Petrojam under the leadership of Winston Watson while a close relative was a senior manager at Jamaica Broilers? That same OCG investigation died a natural death.

 

MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

 

If our refinery cannot be appropriately monitored and managed by domestic politicians, it may be better off divested.

Winston was the 'chief executive officer' over the refinery operations when the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) was busy restructuring their business model to transition from heavy fuel oil (HFO) to LNG. JPS eventually sanctioned a strategic decision to transform all their power plants away from fossil fuels to LNG.

I am additionally baffled as to why within days of Mr Watson's return to Petrojam, the project manager for the refinery upgrade was fired and paid millions to the end of his contract term. How was this possible? What was the reason? If the reason for his termination was his being hired under another manager's tenure, pressure, or victimisation, it would be good to know when these musical chairs of constant change will be ending?

The most recent energy ministers, Andrew Wheatley and Phillip Paulwell, have repeatedly emphasised that the refinery future operations will be catastrophic if the Refinery Upgrade Project is not implemented by January 2020. Why would the current leader of the company want to disband the only lifeline of the Petrojam refinery? Has the new board and Government decided to divest the refinery and are we to anticipate a mass redundancy as we convert to terminal operations within the next few months?

Was the signature of the current GM on the US$100-million loan that was received from the Government in support of the Refinery Upgrade Project. The loan charges allegedly cost the refinery approximately J$50 million per month. Isn't this a severe waste of public funds?

Winston Watson's competence must be thoroughly evaluated to determine if he is capable of overseeing the operations of Jamaica's sole refinery.