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Sunday 22 October 2017
Local

Chairman: No stone unturned in Petrotrin probe

Petrotrin line minister, Energy Minister Franklin Khan. FILE PHOTO

Canadian forensic investigators Kroll Consulting, on Tuesday last, began a probe into Petrotrin’s US$11 million ‘fake’ oil scandal and has been given an all-clear directive to report any employee who refuses to cooperate with them.

Petrotrin’s management is to be informed within 24 hours of any non-compliance with directives by Kroll Consulting, as the team of forensic experts review company records to investigate just how company personnel reported on the levels of oil produced by one of the company’s lease operators, the issuing of sales tickets and its fiscalisation (audit for payment), for the period January to June 2017.

Alleged erroneous figures supplied to Petrotrin from the lease operator, resulted in the already cash-strapped oil refinery which Finance Minister Colm Imbert said in his 2018 budget is owing the State $12 billion, having to pay to the private lease operator a whopping US$11.5 million for oil its Pointe-a-Pierre refinery never received.

Newsday learned that at a recent board meeting, a decision was taken to leave no stone unturned in giving Kroll Consulting Canada Company full leeway to find the perpetrators responsible for auditing the crude ‘ received’ at the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery from the lease operator and which according to Petrotrin’s August audit report into the allegations, smacks of a collusion between high-level employees of the company and the particular lease operator with the objective of having falsified the actual oil pumped from the field to its tanks.

Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet declined to confirm to Newsday that a particular employee whom the Petrotrin audit report named as the key player in the fraud, has been sent on leave, or, any of the six senior employees who were named. Newsday was told by a high level Petrotrin source, that the employee has been sent on accumulated leave.

On September 26, Petrotrin’s board accepted its audit committee recommendations that based on its 30-page findings, the company should engage external consultants to investigate a number of anomalies it discovered including how the particular lease operator’s production shot up miraculously from a mere 28,628 barrels to 111,006 barrels in the January-July period.

Most alarming, is the audit committee’s complaint in its 30-page report headed, Internal Audit Department Memorandum, that several senior employees refused to cooperate with the committee. In fact, it made the bold contention, that the particular employees were more intent on seeking the interests of the private lease operator, rather than the interest of the company.

The six employee fingered in the audit report, Newsday learned from a high-placed Petrotrin source, were last week Friday handed letters from the company’s human resource department, in which they were informed that their cooperation would be needed by the Canadian experts.

Espinet said, “Work is progressing at the rate expected and we the board have set a course of action. We have put together all they would need to look at in terms of documentation. We have set up a structure in our organisation in which the head of the audit committee connects with the experts in the investigation and if anything is delayed for more than 24 hours, (Canadian experts) must notify the auditors.”

One specific item of investigation which Kroll Consulting intends to examine based on the audit, is the Global Positioning System (GPS) records installed in Petrotrin’s vehicles which the report stated, was used by the company’s Procurement Specialists. The objective of doing so, would be to determine why a certain employee did not use a Petrotrin GPS-equipped vehicle, but his private one, which contained no GPS, to visit the lease operator in question and take the level of oil- dip from his tank.

The auditors had found that the particular employee was not even present for the fiscalisation (determining the oil level for payment) of sale volumes which the audit report documented for the periods from January to June, 2017.

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