Is Win­ston Wat­son com­pe­tent to lead Petro­jam?

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Email feed­back to [email protected]­

The fol­low­ing was writ­ten by a con­cerned em­ployee of Petro­jam, who re­quested anonymity.

HOW COM­PE­TENT is the cur­rent gen­eral man­ager, Win­ston Wat­son, in the op­er­a­tions of the Petro­jam re­fin­ery? The just-pub­lished au­di­tor gen­eral’s re­port, full of sor­did de­tails of nepo­tism, waste and cor­rup­tion, as well as my per­sonal knowl­edge of the in­ner work­ings of Petro­jam, tells a com­pelling tale.

As an apo­lit­i­cal cur­rent em­ployee of Petro­jam, I am per­turbed how it is that un­der the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party ad­min­is­tra­tion, Mr Wat­son was sec­onded from Petro­jam to the par­ent body, Pe­tro­leum Cor­po­ra­tion of Ja­maica, in 2014.

The cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion again sec­onded him from Petro­jam to PCJ in 2016. The one con­stant snicker with this pic­ture is bi­ased con­tract as­sign­ments and closed bunker C/crude oil/clean pe­tro­leum prod­ucts trans­ac­tions! I am baf­fled as to whether or not Mr Wat­son’s in­com­pe­tence, or oth­er­wise, is what should be pub­li­cised, or if it is the in­com­pe­tence of the rul­ing Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP) in not be­ing able to find a wor­thy, ex­pe­ri­enced re­place­ment for the GM, vs tak­ing a tar­nished twice-dis­carded re­ject!

For the full ex­tent of my al­most three decades of em­ploy­ment at this re­fin­ery, this fa­cil­ity has seethed of cor­rup­tion, and of a few ben­e­fit­ing from un­nec­es­sary charges and cost over­runs as­so­ci­ated from shut­downs, con­tracts and ev­ery­day charges.


Sadly, in lis­ten­ing to the re­cent gen­eral de­bates re­gard­ing the re­fin­ery up­grade and costs as­so­ci­ated from the ob­so­lete equip­ment, I have been floored, as over the years, I have seen where way more money has been spent ‘patch­ing in­dus­tri­ally rot­ted, ob­so­lete 50-year-old equip­ment’ vs re­plac­ing or up­grad­ing it. This is where my col­leagues seem to make the most money!

I would be re­miss in stat­ing that the cur­rent GM is di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for this dys­func­tion. Suf­fice it to say, he needs to be fully in­ves­ti­gated, as there have been many unan­swered ques­tions about how the op­er­a­tions here have been run over the years.

The ex­tent of daily pil­fer­age from the re­fin­ery and abuse of as­sets owned by ev­ery tax-pay­ing and petrol-buy­ing cit­i­zen of Ja­maica need to be looked into! In re­cent months, more than $60 mil­lion of ma­te­ri­als and equip­ment have gone miss­ing from the re­fin­ery ware­house.

In my opin­ion, the JLP has failed mis­er­ably in putting back a man­ager who was sec­onded for rea­sons not made pub­lic and are fail­ing mis­er­ably in try­ing to run the mon­ster Min­istry of En­ergy from the OPM ev­i­dently with­out con­ced­ing that this is the devil’s child of all the min­istries of govern­ment be­cause of the monies in­volved.

Non-per­form­ing pub­lic ser­vants should never be put in roles for which they are not qual­i­fied or have proven com­pe­tency. What is dif­fer­ent about the cur­rent Win­ston Wat­son run­ning Petro­jam and be­ing sec­onded twice?


If our re­fin­ery can­not be ap­pro­pri­ately mon­i­tored and man­aged by do­mes­tic politi­cians, it may be bet­ter off di­vested.

Win­ston was the ‘chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer’ over the re­fin­ery op­er­a­tions when the Ja­maica Pub­lic Ser­vice (JPS) was busy re­struc­tur­ing their busi­ness model to tran­si­tion from heavy fuel oil (HFO) to LNG. JPS even­tu­ally sanc­tioned a strate­gic de­ci­sion to trans­form all their power plants away from fos­sil fu­els to LNG.

I am ad­di­tion­ally baf­fled as to why within days of Mr Wat­son’s re­turn to Petro­jam, the project man­ager for the re­fin­ery up­grade was fired and paid mil­lions to the end of his con­tract term. How was this pos­si­ble? What was the rea­son? If the rea­son for his ter­mi­na­tion was his be­ing hired un­der an­other man­ager’s ten­ure, pres­sure, or vic­tim­i­sa­tion, it would be good to know when these mu­si­cal chairs of con­stant change will be end­ing?

The most re­cent en­ergy min­is­ters, An­drew Wheat­ley and Phillip Paulwell, have re­peat­edly em­pha­sised that the re­fin­ery fu­ture op­er­a­tions will be cat­a­strophic if the Re­fin­ery Up­grade Project is not im­ple­mented by Jan­uary 2020. Why would the cur­rent leader of the com­pany want to dis­band the only life­line of the Petro­jam re­fin­ery? Has the new board and Govern­ment de­cided to di­vest the re­fin­ery and are we to an­tic­i­pate a mass re­dun­dancy as we con­vert to ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tions within the next few months?

Was the sig­na­ture of the cur­rent GM on the US$100-mil­lion loan that was re­ceived from the Govern­ment in sup­port of the Re­fin­ery Up­grade Project. The loan charges al­legedly cost the re­fin­ery ap­prox­i­mately J$50 mil­lion per month. Isn’t this a se­vere waste of pub­lic funds?

Win­ston Wat­son’s com­pe­tence must be thor­oughly eval­u­ated to de­ter­mine if he is ca­pa­ble of over­see­ing the op­er­a­tions of Ja­maica’s sole re­fin­ery.


Sec­onded gen­eral man­ager of the Petro­jam re­fin­ery, Win­ston Wat­son.

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