OWTU leader Ancel Roget had abundant car purchase metaphors to explain recent issues arising the halting progress of the buyout of the assets of Petrotrin by Patriotic Energy and Technologies company; the new energy sector player created expressly for that purpose.
"If you buy a motor vehicle, you would inspect it, especially if it has been down for a year," Roget said.
Roget was responding to an inference by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that delays in the process were caused by Patriotic. Roget blamed the Ministry of Energy for the delays in setting up finalising meetings, accusing the Ministry of postponing one meeting from October 2019 to January 15. That meeting with Patriotic's team was characterised by the Energy Ministry as "very productive."
"Everybody's ready, but they did not get their act together," Roget said. “We did not ask for extra time."
Months after Patriotic won the bid for the plant assets of Petrotrin, this is not the conversation the nation wants to hear. The discussions between the government and the newly formed energy company have been studiously cordial until now. Minister of Finance Colm Imbert said three months ago that the government's Evaluation Committee had met with Patriotic's team on November 04, 2019 and accepted the company's responses to ten conditions raised after the company had been identified as the preferred bidder for the US$700 million sale.
On Saturday, Energy Minister Franklin Khan explained that the company is dealing with Patriotic's board and not its owner, the OWTU. Khan was careful to note that Roget is not on the company's board, implying a disconnect between the company's operations and the OWTU boss' rhetoric.
In the statement that Roget took issue with, the Prime Minister expressed confidence in the bidding and acquisition process. As part of that process, Patriotic has submitted a Document Request List that calls for specific information across a range of business categories, totalling 250 specific requests.
This wide-ranging document does not seem out of line for a company that's serious about getting a failed company, inoperative for a year, back into profitable production and Roget's effort to simplify that process by equating it with "radiator inspections" does not do it justice.
The requests align with an intent to return the plant to productive status, so it's to be expected that more evaluation, beyond the "data room" model offered to all bidders, would be part of the process.
The government must be keen to get the refinery assets off its hands and into productive operation. Patriotic should, sensibly, evaluate what it is buying, and TT deserves to see that sector of its energy business resolved to the benefit of all.