Attorney for A&V Oil and Gas Ltd Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj has welcomed the decision by State-owned Petrotrin to engage an independent, international consultant to investigate the findings of an internal audit report which showed a discrepancy in the quantity of crude oil his client sold to Petrotrin and the payment received.
Maharaj is representing A&V’s CEO Hanif Baksh in this and other related matters — including the withholding of payment and legal action against the Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who first made the preliminary findings public, on a political platform.
He said there is the need for the investigation to be done urgently.
“National interest demands that it be done urgently. The government should ensure that this is done urgently and quickly because this company is still producing oil and supplying to Petrotrin in accordance with the contract. It is not in the interest of the economy of Trinidad and Tobago for there to be any disruption in the supply of oil,” Maharaj said.
He said he did not want this matter hanging over the head of his client for any long period of time and also welcomed an opportunity for his client to respond.
A&V’s contract is specifically to drill, test and workover oil wells in the Catshill Block for the production of oil which it sells to Petrotrin. During the period June to July 2017, a shortfall of approximately 111,006 barrels of oil sold to Petrotrin was identified, triggering an internal audit into A&V.
A statement from Petrotrin indicated that, at a September 26 meeting, the Wilfred Espinet-chaired Board of Directors accepted the recommendations of its Audit Committee to engage external consultants Kroll Consulting Canada Co (Kroll) to conduct a forensic investigation into the August 17 Internal Audit Report of overage/shortage of crude oil volumes from its Exploration and Production Division to the Pointe-a-Pierre Refinery.
President General of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union, Ancel Roget, had first called for independent auditors to conduct forensic investigations in the quantity of oil sold and what Petrotrin was being billed for, weeks before Persad Bissessar’s revelation. Yesterday, he was chairing a general council meeting and could not respond to Petrotrin’s decision to hire Kroll.
The Toronto, Canada, based company, is an intelligence agency with 40 years of experience working with governments, government agencies as well as public and private companies globally in the fields of investigations, intelligence, risk analysis, cybersecurity, data breach response and e-discovery.
Petrotrin said the company whose services include conducting complex and sensitive investigations, compliance audits and reviews as well as internal control and fraud risk assessments, was one of four companies invited to submit proposals to conduct the forensic audit following the meeting of the Audit Committee.
Its terms of reference would be to conduct a forensic investigation into the report, find and verify the facts.
Depending on its findings, Kroll is to identify any relevant parties/entities from the standpoint of accountability and culpability, as well as, identify any systemic inadequacies or shortcomings which may have contributed to the findings.
Maharaj said the company is entitled to take steps to verify or confirm or to know whether the findings in the internal report can stand up.