Jamaica Gets New Energy Minister As Gov’t Tackles the Scandal-Hit State-Owned Oil Refinery

Fayval Shirley Williams, formerly minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, has been appointed Minister of Science, Energy and Technology. (Credit: JIS)

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday February 14, 2019 — Six and a half months after embattled Andrew Wheatley resigned as Energy Minister, Jamaica’s Prime Minister who had taken oversight of that portfolio has now picked a replacement.

Fayval Shirley Williams, who up until yesterday was minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, has been appointed Minister of Science, Energy and Technology amid more scandal at the state-owned oil refinery Petrojam, over which she now has responsibility.

Holness announced that and other changes to his Cabinet in a statement issued yesterday, as he suggested that enough is being done to deal with Petrojam for him to hand over the responsibility.

Allegations of corruption have plagued Petrojam in recent years, and the refinery was this month hit by another scandal when it was discovered that it had paid former human resources manager Yolande Ramharrack a separation package worth more than J$13.3 million (US$98,718), including a J$2.7 million (US$20,033) performance incentive despite an appraisal detailing a range of shortcomings on her part.

In his statement yesterday, Prime Minister Holness said that since taking over the Energy, and Science and Technology portfolios in July 2018, significant policy, governance and administrative advances have been made.

He noted that through the Energy Portfolio, government’s strategic policy goal of providing real assets to private citizens and entities through listing on the Jamaican Stock Market has begun to take shape with the imminent initial public offering of Wigton Wind Farms Limited, and a policy decision is now being finalized to similarly list the government’s shares in Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS), an integrated electric utility company and the sole distributor of electricity in the island.

Additionally, he noted that on Tuesday he tabled in the House of Representatives, legislation to acquire the 49 per cent stake Venezuela has in Petrojam.

“This is a major step to secure the viability and value of our national asset in Petrojam. The Review Commission which I established to explore and advise the Government on the future options for Petrojam has begun its work and is on track to deliver its finding. I have ordered a forensic audit into oil losses at the entity and I signed off on draft terms of reference to be circulated and commented on by stakeholders before finalization,” he said.

“The Government has made several policy changes which will improve governance generally, including changes to, Corporate Social Responsibility and Donations Policy, the appointment of Boards, travel of Board Members, restrictions on the use of retainer contracts and restrictions on the use nondisclosure clauses in HR/Personnel matters.

“While there is still much more work to be done to restore the public trust and confidence in Petrojam and the portfolio generally, I believe we have come a far way. I am therefore confident that with the changes set in motion, I can now refocus my attention and effort on other pressing areas of the government, particularly crime, ease of doing business, and completing the extensive infrastructure programme undertaken,” Holness added.

Other changes announced affect two junior ministers — Alando Terrelonge and Floyd Green — as well as three prominent permanent secretaries — Audrey Sewell, Sancia Templer Bennett and Carol Palmer.

Green will be assigned to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries from the Ministry of Education Youth and Information, while Terrelonge has been shifted from the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.

Permanent Secretary Palmer has been transferred from the Ministry of Justice to work with Minister Williams in the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology; Templer Bennett goes to the Ministry of Justice from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM); while Sewell will take over at the OPM.

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