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Ministry never got report from Petrotrin: PS

Published: 
Thursday, September 14, 2017

The August 2017 Petrotrin internal audit report on the alleged "fake oil" issue wasn't officially sent to the Energy Ministry, Permanent Secretary Selwyn Lashley has said.

Lashley yesterday also told Parliament's Public Accounts Committee that the report - now in the public domain - has more details than what was sent to the ministry on the issue.

PAC chairman Dr Bhoe Tewarie questioned Lashley on the issue when Energy officials appeared before the committee.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar recently gave details of the August 2017 report by Petrotrin, which alleged lease operator A&V Drilling Workover Ltd had inflated its oil production figures and defrauded Petrotrin of almost $100 million. The report also alleged “wilful misconduct” by a Petrotrin employee over January to June 2017. The stint coincided with the period of inflated oil production figures. Government confirmed the employee was screened by its ruling party as a 2015 general election candidate. The matter's now under probe.

Tewarie yesterday requested expediting the expected report.

Lashley said, "These are serious issues, we must recognise there are processes to follow - due process. I don't think an inordinate amount of time will elapse before submission of a report."

Tewarie said if the report "is in alignment with any future report on the matter," the Inland Revenue Board must audit the company which under-supplied Petrotrin and was overpaid.

Lashley said the report in the public domain was yet to come to the ministry officially and he hadn't seen it there.

He said, however, that Petrotrin had sent the ministry a preliminary report, indicating concern about overpaying and under-supplying aspects under probe by its Internal Audit Division. He said Petrotrin's president indicated a matter was being investigated. Expectation was that at completion something would officially come to the ministry from Petrotrin.

"On that basis, we'd have investigated it," he added.

Lashley couldn't speculate why it hadn't come to the ministry. On how the matter would have been handled, he said the ministry would have production returns sent by Petrotrin and would have examined production trends. Any audit report would be sent to Energy's Measurement Division to determine "quantum issues, parties involved, who signed off on what and we'd query to see of there was lack of accuracy."

When a final report is done, Lashley - who also sits on Petrotrin's board - said there's no conflict of interest between that post and his PS job. He said the PS's role is regulatory and there are processes to prevent conflict of interest.