Month: August 2018

Petrotrin ceases oil-refining operations- “We had to cut out the cancer”

With $8 billion in losses in the past five years and a bullet payment of US$850 million due in 2019, Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet says terminating its Refining and Marketing operations and retrenching 1700 permanent and casual employees was the only way to save the company after 100 years of operations in the industry.

In a media conference at the Pointe-A-Pierre Staff Club yesterday, Espinet said a commercial company cannot continue to operate at a loss indefinitely. He said under the current operation, Petrotrin’s value in terms of its balance sheet was deteriorating. Given the mandate by the Government to return the company to profitability, Espinet said the board of directors had to embark on a programme that would stop the deterioration so the company would be able to pay the debt it had accumulated.

Petrotrin has a $12 billion debt and owes Government more than $3 billion in taxes and royalties. The company requires a cash injection of $25 billion to refresh its infrastructure and to repay its debt, Espinet said, noting this money could not be funded initially and it was impossible to keep the refinery working.

In a release yesterday, the company said if left as is, the projected loss would be an estimated $2 billion per year. Espinet added that if the company does not find a solution to its bond payments in the coming weeks there will be an impact on its sovereign rating. He said the money being saved from shelving crude imports will help to repay the loan.

On being appointed, he said the board recruited experts to assess the performance capacity of the company’s assets and it was found that in comparison to other companies in the industry, Petrotrin ranked last.

Further “bad investments” like the World Gas to Liquid Plant exacerbated the current problem, he said. Petrotrin produces 140,000 barrels of oil daily, of which 100,000 are imported crude. These imports require a lot of working capital and contribute to the loss.

“We had to take Petrotrin and redesign it from what it was and we put it into focused companies that would have an exploration and production end and a refinery and marketing unit. These two units were looked at and it was identified from very early that the refining and marketing were not going to survive because it was not profitable. It could not be made profitable, in fact,” Espinet said.

“We had a continued programme of looking at all sorts of ways to make this thing work. We came to the conclusion that if we wanted to be able to pay back the debt and if we wanted to be able to have a profitable company that could be sustained over time, we would have to take out what was the cancer of the operation and that would have been the refining and marketing.”

Noting that retrenchment would be an emotional process for the affected workers, he said the board met with the Government and looked at all options but there was no alternative. He said government accepted the board’s proposal and gave the go-ahead for the closure.

Espinet said this will be the course of action unless the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union can come up with an alternative that is better than the closure. The OWTU has already presented its proposals to the company, which called for the creation of four entities: Land: North and East (LNE), Trinmar Offshore Operations, Exploration and Production and the Augustus Long Hospital.

OWTU leader Ancel Roget had warned that the refinery will be sold to private investors, but yesterday Espinet said, “There is no likelihood of that refinery being sold.”

Although aged, the refinery had had several upgrades in recent years. Among them is the construction of an Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel Plant, which Espinet said gave it value.

Board member Anthony Chan Tack said the refinery was unreliable and likened it to a taxi that was “more in the garage than on the road.”

No date was given for the restructuring exercise, as Espinet said they wanted to work with the union to determine the best way of retrenchment.

Approximately 2,600 permanent jobs will be affected as the company intends to redesign its Exploration and Production business, which will have approximately 800 workers.

Yesterday, the also board met with the OWTU to discuss the company’s plan, which the union rejected.

In April, the company and the union signed a Memorandum of Agreement to establish a working committee to restructure Petrotrin. This included regular meetings, but none were held since the agreement was signed. Espinet explained yesterday that the company wanted to present the union with a workable plan, but all it had was a problem. He said they did not want to approach the union without a feasible course of action.

“We had a problem. We were not going to go to them with a problem. We were going to go to them with a solution. Coming to them with this, therefore, is to us, what the solution is,” Espinet said.

He said the company was asking the union to understand a situation which has a major impact on it and its members. He said the company now has to find an exit plan that makes it less difficult than if the workers were just being thrown on the pavement.

The Government will now determine whether there are price hikes in fuel supplies to consumers when Petrotrin shuts down its refinery and begins importing fuel.

Asked whether importing fuel would not be more expensive, Espinet said, “I don’t believe so because we are an expensive refinery. The net cost of the product is unlikely to be any more than it is now.”

In the 2018 budget, Imbert announced a 39 cents increase in the price of Super fuel from $3.58 to $3.97 per litre while the cost of diesel fuel went from $2.30 to $3.41 per litre. He also signalled then Government’s intention was to remove the fuel subsidy entirely and implement a system whereby fuel prices at the pump would fluctuate and be determined on the market prices of oil and refined products. The model is similar to that used in the United States and in St Lucia in the Caribbean.

Commenting on the plan yesterday, former energy minister Kevin Ramnarine expressed concern at what he said was the very real prospect of consumers paying international market prices for diesel and gasoline in the absence of information on where the company intends to import fuel from.

According to Ramnarine, about “17 per cent of the refinery output is consumed locally, another 17% is consumed regionally and the is rest sold to extra regional customers.” The major regional customers are Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana, he said.

Yesterday, there were long lines at gas stations as consumers started panic buying in reaction to news the Government planned to shut down the Petrotrin refinery.

But NP, which is the main supplier of fuel products produced by Petrotrin, meanwhile assured that its operations are “running normally with a continuous and reliable supply of fuel.” The company also advised there was “no need for consumers to panic-buy,” saying such action will only serve to “cause fuel shortages.”

“We have sufficient stock and we will continue to keep quantities so that we do not create disruptions,” Espinet said.

The company, he said, produces more than the country can use and it is that excess which is sold. But in the current situation, “it’s a matter of keeping the inventory so we will be adequately supplied in the local market.”

If there is a need, he said fuel will be imported to ensure that local demands are met, as has been done in the past.

As to supplies to Caribbean islands, Espinet said Petrotrin is looking at importing in “larger amounts and re-sell to some of the smaller markets. It will give us economies of scale in purchasing.”

In doing this, he said there will be use of the facility “in some way. It is not a big business but at least it will keep a few hundred people occupied,” Espinet said.

With Petrotrin’s plan to import gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined products for the local market, Petroleum Dealers Association president Robindranath Naraynsingh believes there will be another increase in fuel prices at the pumps.

Espinet said the company intends to continue to supply local dealers with the products and engage in bunkering. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) will not be imported, he said.

Espinet could not, however, say where the products would be sourced. But he said they will find the products in the same way the company was able to source crude for refining. Petrotrin already imports crude from Canada and Russia.

“There is going to be a change in how we do business, how the effect drills down to the ordinary citizens of our country and it is going to drill deep. We as a people have to now hope that we’re going to climb out of this…We will go through a little turmoil, there will be some convulsion in the way we operate, some high people will dictate to us what to do,” Naraynsingh said.

As operators of fuel stations, he said they are governed by the Petroleum Act, which means that the cost of fuel at the pump is dictated by the Government. With profit margins already small, he noted many operators depend on a high turnover rate in order to reap gains, which may change under the future plan.

“A lot of gas station dealers are just living above substance levels. Expectations are going to be very strenuous and when the price of gas goes up, you collect a lot of money and pay a lot of interest in the bank on overdrafts. Small dealers will go out soon.”

He warned that these kinds of situations were responsible for dealers operating in clandestine ways, all with the purpose of keeping their families fed. He is hoping that the Government consults with the association before making any changes.

Maduro offers to help T&T control drug trade

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has offered TT help in controlling the drug trade, as well as initiating the possibility for increased non-energy trade between the two neighbours, as he and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley signed off on the Dragon gas deal on Saturday in Caracas.

“Together with TT, we are giving an example to the world in building bilateral brotherhood relations. Latin America and the Caribbean have everything to become a great scientific, energetic and cultural power. A region united and in peace!” Maduro said in a speech following the signing ceremony of the Dragon-Gas Deal.

The Dragon deal, he said, was one that was settled peacefully and the collaboration between TT and Venezuela is a positive message for the region. “We must cultivate the relations of good neighbours and brotherhood. We must overcome neocolonialism and slavery if we want a region of peace,” he said.

Maduro also encouraged trade in other products that Venezuela could offer TT, including rum, coffee, cocoa, fish and shrimp. TT also has goods Venezuela needs, he said, and gave directives to governors from various states to go to TT to improve trade relations.

Venezuela, TT and the rest of the Caribbean were also victims of narcotrafficking, he said, with Venezuela clearing up to 2,200 kilometres along the border with Colombia dismantling laboratories and drug operations. “We have experience in the fight and we can help. We are engaged in a safe Eastern Caribbean, drug-free, terrorism-free, free of criminal gangs. We can achieve this through joint operations and exchanging experiences,” he said.

The Caribbean and Venezuela shared a very important space, he said, united by history, geography, geology, and geopolitics. “It is our Caribbean. We are Caribbean South Americans. We continue to move in the right direction with this energy association,” he said.

March 2015- Feeding Frenzy at AG’s Office

$343 Million- The cost incurred by taxpayers as former Attorney General, Anand Ramlogan employed the services of private lawyers to do the work of his office.

Two former Attorneys General describe this phenomenon as gross overspending.

Among the revelations are:

  • Increased spending on legal fees for private attorneys since 2010, from 25% to almost 50% of the total budget allocated to the Attorney General’s office.
  • An increase in the budget assigned to the Attorney General’s office, from $36 million in 2010, to $130 million in 2015- an increase of almost 400%
  • An increase in the allocation for legal fees in 2011 to $78 million or over 100%
  • An increase in the allocation for legal fees in 2012 to $104 million
  • An increase in the allocation for legal fees in 2015 to $130 million
  • The retention of a private lawyer for $408,000 to reply to a pre-action protocol letter that the individual had paid another lawyer $2,000 to file.
  • Charging and payment of legal fees for an investigation into the Scarborough General Hospital construction project, which is yet to be released.
  • Charging of $400,000 for advice on exemption from taxes on the purchase of motor vehicles.
  • Mysterious payment of TT$1,750,000 to Tiger Capital Ltd, a local company with no legal expertise, part owned by a former client of the Ex Attorney General, for “Request for Mutual Assistance by the USA”. The US Department of Justice denies knowing about, or ever having anything to do with the company. The million-dollar-plus payment was made to the company 6 days after it was restarted, following a period of 5 years of inactivity. The official address of the company- 16B McInroy Street, Curepe, in an empty plot of land. 

Commenting on the issue, PM at the time Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she could not comment on the expenditure by her former Attorney General, Anand Ramlogan, as she had not studied the figures and stated that as far as she had been aware, no investigation had been launched into the allegations.

The Attorney General’s office at that time not only engaged in what seems evident as blatant fraud and squander-mania, but more so, proved his unfitness for Public Office.

Dragon-Gas Deal to support T&T’s Development

The Dragon gas deal is the first of countless possibilities between TT and Venezuela, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley suggested yesterday, even teasing the possibility that Venezuelan oil may one day be used to supply state-owned oil company, Petrotrin.

Rowley and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro shook hands to seal the deal that will see TT for the first time processing Venezuelan natural gas.

Rowley called the deal, nearly two years in the making, a “historic development” that clears the way for the economy of TT to be linked to the resources of Venezuela.

The deal was borne out of concern for TT’s longevity in the hydrocarbons business, he said, and Government worked hard to negotiate with the government of Venezuela to link TT’s infrastructure with their wells in the Mariscal Sucre fields. These fields, to our west and Venezuela’s east have been capped but are ready to be exploited. They’re far from the main processing centres in Venezuela, Rowley said, but near enough to TT’s infrastructure.

Rowley thanked his main delegates, National Security Minster Stuart Young and Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses for spearheading the negotiations that were “a long time in coming. Negotiations have not been easy. I anticipated we would be where we are today, a year ago.”

Young noted to the media on the flight back that over the course of discussions he travelled to Venezuela five times during the bargaining process.

Along with Rowley and Maduro, representatives of Shell (Mounir Bouaziz), and the National Gas Company (CEO Mark Loquan), also signed the agreement yesterday.

“Now we have successfully come to the point where the two most important aspects have been agreed to: volume and price,” Rowley said.

That was all he was prepared to say about the contract, because even though these were both arguably the two biggest hurdles to cross, there were “still some i’s to dot and t’s to cross.”

“I will not disclose the price because that is usually confidential. I will say it was extremely competitive and a better price that we are paying in TTD for what we are contracted to supply. It’s the price that is satisfactory to Venezuela and TT,” he said.

The basic outline of the Dragon deal is that TT and its partner, Shell, will build an 18 kilometre pipeline from the Hibiscus platform, off the northwest tip of TT, to the Dragon field which has reserves of 2.4 trillion cubic feet. From Hibiscus, the gas will then be transferred through existing infrastructure to Point Lisas and other NGC customers. The Dragon gas field is owned by Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA. TT will pay PDVSA for the gas, helping that country monetize its hydrocarbon assets. The first tranche, which Young had previously stated will be delivered by 2020, is about 150 million standard cubic feet, and will eventually go as high as 300 million standard cubic feet.

Regarding the arrangement with Shell, Rowley said that this has allowed TT to overcome financial hardships, since Shell has given a guarantee that if Government was able to make the deal happen diplomatically they would partner with TT and “ensure financial constraints would not be an impediment.”

But it’s not just gas. Rowley mentioned the restructuring of Petrotrin, saying that it had been something in the works for the last year and a half, and one of the outcomes will be a new approach to treating the oil industry in TT.

“In our discussions here…with Venezuela we have also opened the possibility of treating with that intractable problem in TT on the oil side,” he said.

Not on the table though, was Loran Manatee, a cross-border field with 3/10 in TT waters and the rest in Venezuela. For more than a decade, TT, Venezuela and the multinationals who own acreages in the area, Shell and Chevron, have been unable to come to an agreement. The dream of the processing of Venezuelan gas in T&T and its sale to major international markets was one that was articulated by the late prime minister Patrick Manning, and while there have been negotiations on various cross-border blocks to achieve the same objective, nothing has been achieved in more than 15 years.

Dragon, however, is 100 per cent owned by PDVSA, so a deal was easier to negotiate, rather than focusing on Loran Manatee and “another ten years of nothingness,” he said.

Asked how this deal might affect TT’s relationship with the US, which has contentious political relations with Venezuela, Rowley said the US is and will remain TT’s trading partner, just like Venezuela. “TT is a sovereign country and we make decisions based on the best interest of our people,” he said.

The Dragon-Gas Deal will make T&T more attractive to billion-dollar downstream investments in the energy sector.

T&T has experienced gas shortages in the last five years and there has not been a single new investment in the petrochemical sector since.

In what must be considered one of his most significant achievements since coming to office almost three years ago, the Prime Minister beamed with pride as he told reporters that not only would the gas be coming here to support this country’s development but that the cost was less than the National Gas Company (NGC) was paying many of the upstream producers.

“We may have been able to save our industry by getting a secure source of gas for the downstream sector. It may over time also allow us to look at the expansion of the downstream sector and investments there, as long as we can show investors we have a secured stream of gas,” Rowley told journalists on the flight back from the Bolivarian Republic.

Rowley also revealed that the NGC has been able to negotiate a tranche of gas for power generation at an even lower price than the rest of the gas to be used by the petrochemical sector.

To put the deal into perspective, Trinidad would access enough gas to support at least two methanol plants from Venezuela, it will help with the shortfall in natural gas to the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, and would provide a guaranteed source of cash to the Venezuela government.

As President Nicolas Maduro puts it, the deal will lead to money to build schools and provide drugs to Venezuela’s hospitals. The drive from the Simon Bolivar Airport to Mira Flores demonstrated how much the cash is needed as long lines could be seen everywhere in the capital as people struggle to deal with the worst economic crisis in the Americas.

Both Rowley and Maduro acknowledged that the signing of terms of the agreement had come a year and a half after they signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the very project, but both said it was better late than never.

THE DEAL

T&T and Venezuela signed a Heads of Agreement (HoA) in March 2017 on a project that will see gas piped run from the Dragon field in Sucre state to the northeast of Venezuela from PDVSA’s Mariscal Sucre project to the Hibiscus platform in T&T operated by Shell and then to the NGC for sale downstream. Rowley met with a high-level delegation from Venezuela on January 24, 2018, as negotiations for the supply of natural gas to T&T continued to progress. In June, Stuart Young, then minister in the office of the
attorney general, had led a delegation to continue negotiations. The Government has promised that the natural gas shortages experienced by the downstream companies will come to an end by 2021. It has based its projections on improved production from the upstream energy companies and on natural gas from Venezuela’s Dragon Field.

Griffith hits the ground with his troops

Police Commissioner, Gary Griffith is giving the assurance to the rank and file of the police service that he is supporting them and is willing to do so by hitting the ground with them.

Griffith in his first week, promoted seven senior officers to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police, the highest rank a commissioner can promote which is two ranks below his. He also met with and assured the Police Service Social and Welfare Association (PSSWA) that the long requested body cameras and non-lethal weapons will be implemented by October and will be meeting with National Security Minister Stuart Young on Thursday on the issue.

“His intentions on being one of the rank-and-file, has been accepted by his subordinates,” PSSWA president Insp Michael Seales said.

Seales said that within four days, his membership gave Griffith a passing grade and that the service is progressing and doing so “at a rapid rate” since Griffith took the reins of leadership.

“When you start to take care of the internal customer, the internal customer starts to take care of the external customer which is the population,” Seales said, adding “they (members of the association) are cheering him on and they have become his biggest cheerleader, especially those on the ground.”

Seales said that the feedback the association got from the membership, suggests that Griffith will take a direct and frontal approach which is something they welcome. The benefit of this is that there is a bridging of the gap between his office and the men on patrol.

Apart from looking like them and publicly stating that he will be there with them, Griffith, in giving out a personalised cell number 482-GARY, further rooted himself with his subordinates.

This, the association head said, showed that Griffith was also part of those who receive reports.

“He has opened the door for direct communication. Usually you have to go through the channels and consequently some things will get lost in translation. This could be part of the novelty of the position,” Seales said.

He added the association spoke to Griffith about changing the uniform, as well as, accepting donations from the public for body cameras and non-lethal weapons that had been stymied by bureaucracy in the past. Griffith is in agreement with changing the uniform and rolling out the use of non-lethal weapons and accepted an October 1st deadline for a measurable response to this.

“We are convinced right now that what he says is exactly what he does and he stands by his word and that is a wonderful thing for the association,” Seales said.

In his first appearance in uniform, Griffith was seen in a blue tactical suit, something usually worn by second division officers on patrol, as he addressed the media on securing the country after Tuesday’s earthquake. Some officers questioned his choice of wear as first division officers are usually in khaki and not blue.

When asked about his choice of uniform, he commented, “I intend to dress and to be on the ground with my troops. And how my troops will dress, I will dress in the appropriate manner.”

“People should have something better to do than to concern themselves about how I am dressed. It was a tactical situation and a tactical environment, and I dressed tactical. If anyone didn’t like it, then that is their issue. I will be on the ground with my troops and I am not going to be on the ground with them in tactical wear in khaki.”

Questioned as to whether he would be seen on raids, Griffith said he will be with his officers whenever he can.

On Saturday, Griffith paid surprise visits to nine police stations across the country as he embarked on a tour to meet officers “working on the ground”, so he could hear their concerns first-hand.

Arising out of those visits Griffith promised to get rid of the derelict vehicles littered at police stations across the country so the facilities could “look the part”.

Griffith said it was common to see a “little fortress” of derelict vehicles at this country’s police stations.

He, however, said this was “unacceptable” and promised to have the matter dealt with urgently. The derelict vehicles will be either “sold, removed or repaired”.

Griffith began his tour yesterday visiting police stations in west Trinidad and those at Penal, Mon Repos, Marabella, Siparia, and Fyzabad.

He has promised to visit all the police stations in this country and is hoping to have this done within his first month as Police Commissioner.

Griffith said the surprise visits are done so he can see for himself what the public and the police officers are faced with on a random day.

Griffith described yesterday’s visits as productive, saying he was happy to meet with his team of police officers and talk to them and listen to whatever concerns they may have and the police officers all responded positively to the visits.

Griffith reiterated that dealing with the country’s crime scourge is not a one-man mission and can only be successful if he has the support of the police officers.

Griffith meets with Police Executives

Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith met with executive members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Social and Welfare Association yesterday at the Police Administration Building in Port of Spain.

The meeting was attended by association president acting ASP Michael Seales; vice-president Snr Supt Richard Corbett; assistant secretary W/Cpl Cynthia Trim; treasurer Sgt Joshua Pierre and First Division Officer representative ASP Wayne Mohammed.

The parties discussed several issues, including the re-branding of the TTPS; promotions within the ranks of the First and Second Divisions; introduction of the use of non-lethal weapons with specific reference to tasers and pepper spray; implementation of the use of body-worn cameras; and the development of safety and security operational plans for the upcoming Christmas ­period and Carnival 2019.

Young promises more Police presence at public hubs

National Security Minister, Stuart Young has assured that police security presence will be heightened in public hubs and other places following yesterday morning’s earthquake after-shock.

Young expressed concerns about robberies at City Gate or similar places. This, following the robbery of a Guardian Media Ltd worker who was making her way home via City Gate on Tuesday evening around 6 pm. According to reports, she was among several people robbed at the same time at that location. Young said he would raise the matter with police, with suggestions on handling the matter in such areas with Police presence.

Young said he had been doing a tour of the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca when the earthquake occurred on Tuesday. He noted a social media post of a prisoner’s video showing a crack in the prison wall, adding engineers will be examining the situation.

Outside of Police Headquarters yesterday morning, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith—in tactical uniform—spoke about plans on handling the post-quake situation, and later informed that he planned to go on patrols last night.

Young said generally there had not been instances of untoward behaviour and police alerts would remain high. But he particularly slammed “fake news” that arose after Tuesday’s big earthquake. He said a number of voice notes, photos and memes had been circulated in a very irresponsible way.

“This is unacceptable and could have detrimental effects. In instances like (the earthquake) the country comes together—we are all our brother’s keeper. I denounce those intent on being destructive and doing this (fake news) at a time when people are anxious or nervous,” he added.

He cited photos by UNC activist Devant Maharaj of damage near the Roxy, St James. Deeming it unpatriotic, Young said the social media posts were irresponsible since they carried flippant statements.

Dragon Gas Deal to be signed on Saturday in Venezuela

After nearly two years of negotiations between this country and Venezuela, the deal that will allow Trinidad and Tobago to process gas from the Dragon gas field was expected to be finalised today.

Yesterday, a release from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) said the agreement on the final terms for the development of the across the border gas from Venezuela’s Dragon gas field will be signed tomorrow by representatives of the National Gas Company, Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, and Shell, the multinational energy giant with the rights to drill the Dragon field.

OPM said A “high-level Venezuelan delegation” will also participate, along with representatives of the TT Government, to witness this “historic event.”

In late June, Stuart Young, then a Minister of State in the Officer of the Prime Minister, said while discussions were almost complete, price was the main sticking point.

In December 2016, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had visited Venezuela, and along with that country’s President, Nicolas Maduro, signed an agreement that put the plan in motion for TT to process Dragon’s gas.

First gas then was estimated by 2020; that timeline is still on track. Young had given reporters a timeline of 18 months to two years to get first gas here—providing the deal is signed soon.

A special purpose vehicle between multinational energy giant Shell and the National Gas Company (NGC) has been created to lay down the infrastructure; Shell’s pipelines, including those in the North Coast Marine Acreage will be used to transport Dragon’s gas to the Hibiscus platform off the north-west coast of Trinidad and only 18 kilometres away from the gas field.

Hibiscus is jointly owned by the TT government and Shell. The first tranche of Dragon’s production will yield about 150 million standard cubic feet of gas per day (mmscfd), or 26,505 barrel of oil equivalent per day (boed).

For comparison, Petrotrin produces 43,000 barrels of oil per day and 130 mmscfd; bpTT’s Juniper well, which came on stream in the latter half of 2017, produces about 590 mmscfd.

The Dragon field is part of the Mariscal Sucre natural gas complex off the Caribbean coast of Venezuela, north west of Trinidad. That Dragon is just one of the fields in a total acreage reserve of 14.7 trillion cubic feet of gas. Dragon alone contains 2.4 tcf.

However, with concerns over yesterday’s 6.8 magnitude earthquake, this has led to a date and time change for the much-anticipated Dragon gas deal signing ceremony.

The signing initially scheduled for today will now take place on Saturday in Caracas, Venezuela. This was announced by the Communications Ministry in a media release late last night.

“This was requested and acceded to due to the concerns about the earthquake today,” the release said. Communications Minister Stuart Young has been leading the Dragon deal since its inception nearly two years ago.

The Prime Minister will lead the TT delegation, which will include representatives of the National Gas Company (NGC). Other government ministers, representatives from Shell – which has the rights to drill in the field – and officials from Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA are also expected to attend.

Report Crime in Confidentiality- 482-GARY

Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith is making his personal cellphone number a Crime Hotline. Members of the public are being encouraged to Whatsapp or text 482-GARY (4279) to report criminal activities to the police.

Four days after assuming office, Griffith promised that the information would be handled in a confidential manner.

Griffith claimed that people are reluctant to pass on information to the other crime hotline numbers such as 800-TIPS and 555, hence the reason he’s offering an alternative. “So if is one person you can trust, and be assured it would not be passed on for fear of reprisal, it is me.”

Griffith, who gave out the number on a morning television show yesterday, said within hours of the number going public he received over 400 calls and messages which he then passed on to his divisional heads for further investigation.

Contacted on this new initiative, a retired assistant commissioner of police responded that while the initiative is a good one, it will be short-lived.

“He will be inundated with calls, he will not be able to sleep. Everybody will want to call him. After a week he will turn it off.”

In his first address as Police Commissioner last Friday, Griffith said at a media conference at the Ministry of National Security in Port of Spain that he intends to ensure that public trust and confidence is brought back to the Police Service .

He said members of the public would now be able to provide additional information to what would have normally been made available through 800-TIPS and 555. He is requesting specifically: “Information on pending serious criminal, and information on the perpetrators of a serious crime that has taken place.”

He said if the initiative could stop one crime from being committed, he would have done his duty.

“I find ways to make things happen and don’t make excuses why things cannot happen.”

Griffith said 800-TIPS and 555 will continue to function and he promised that when people contact him, he will forward just the message and not their contact number. He said the measure is a temporary one.

Questioned as to whether police officers are on board with the idea, Griffith said all police officers will welcome any opportunity to get information to deal with a matter.

2015 NGC – Collusion to Obscure Corruption

A previous exclusive published gave insight into the shocking revelations of a leaked National Gas Company Auditors’ report in February 2015. What was revealed were concerns by the company’s internal audit team, about fraud and misappropriation of public funds in the company that generated profits to the sum of $6.5 BILLION.

In case you missed it, read story here: NGC Blatant Fraud

Following the NGC’s statement denying that there even existed an audit, and questioning the competence of its own internal auditors, its former Senior Audit Executive, Claire Gomez-Miller who initiated the audits into NGC’s Corporate Communications Management, and NGC’s Procurement recommended that members of the audit team “stand prepared to take any and every action in the interest of their professional safety and professional reputation, including seeking legal advice and taking legal action”.

In a widely circulated 13-point email message, she points out that:

  • The NGC’s advertisement, “seeks to disclaim that an official audit report was issued to management and that the quality, process and issuance was not in accordance with auditing standards, leaving the reader to interpret that the Audit Team was unprofessional at best”.
  • “It is a fact that the Final Draft Audit Report on Corporate Communications Management was issued last year to the Manager, Corporate Communications (Charmaine Mohammed) for her review and comments, and this was done under the directive and approval of the Internal Audit Manager, in accordance with the Internal Audit Charter and the approved Terms of Reference (TOR).”
  • “A Final Draft Audit Report that has been issued to the responsible Manager for action (be it for their review and comments or for implementation) is an OFFICIAL DOCUMENT BE IT A FINAL DRAFT AUDIT REPORT”.
  • “The Final Draft Audit Report will only be revised when the responsible Manager responds to the request for comments, providing any outstanding information, documents, and clarification for the audit team’s consideration.”
  • Up to four months after the Final Draft Audit Report had been passed to the responsible Manager, no response had been received from her.
  • During the audits, her authority as Chief Audit Executive “was wrongfully removed from me and transferred to another Manager who used this authority to promptly stop the completion of these two audits.”
  • The audits resumed nearly two months later, only after she sent a registered letter to the Board Chairman and the Company Secretary about the matter.

Thereafter, the National Gas Company, through its lawyers wrote Former Senior Audit Executive, Claire Gomez-Miller who initiated the audits into NGC’s Corporate Communications Management, and NGC’s Procurement, threatening potential liability “for civil or criminal proceedings”. It was demanded that she hand over to the company any notes, memos and documents she may have retained when she exited the company in September 2014. It also demanded that she gave a written undertaking within 48 hours that she will “not make use of” and also “prevent publication or disclosure or (sic) any confidential information which would have been received or made by “her in the course of her work by the NGC”.

Subsequently, it was also revealed that at the time People’s Partnership-appointed Chairman of the National Gas Company, Roop Chan Chadeesingh violated the rules of the State Enterprise Performance Manual, by serving as a member of the Board’s audit committee while sitting as the Board’s Chairman.

This was in direct contravention of a specific recommendation of the Uff Enquiry.