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Trinidad’s state-owned oil company loses US$500,000 in bad deal

By Trinidad Guardian

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(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – State-owned Na­tion­al Pe­tro­le­um Mar­ket­ing Com­pa­ny Lim­it­ed (NP) lost over US$500,000 in a bad deal on the sale of bunker fu­el on the in­ter­na­tion­al mar­ket.

There are very few de­tails of this deal avail­able in the pub­lic do­main, but Guardian Me­dia un­der­stands that NP was deal­ing with a com­pa­ny named Black Gold on an in­ter­na­tion­al deal which soured and NP was left nurs­ing a mil­lion dol­lar loss.

The deal was the sub­ject of an in­ter­nal au­dit which named op­er­a­tives with­in NP as cul­pa­ble but ac­cord­ing to one NP in­sid­er, it ap­peared to have been swept un­der the car­pet.

The lim­it­ed in­for­ma­tion on the deal is con­tained in an in­ter­nal “good­bye” email writ­ten by the out­go­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer at NP, Bernard Mitchell.

The email was sent to staff of Jan­u­ary 14, one day be­fore Mitchell’s tenure end­ed.

The email list­ed a se­ries of ques­tion­able de­ci­sions tak­en at the State or­gan­i­sa­tion and seemed to in­fer that the board was aware of the grow­ing dis­cord with­in the com­pa­ny.

Mitchell’s email to his for­mer staff was en­ti­tled “un­til we meet again” and in that email, he out­lined the “Black Gold fi­as­co” that cost the com­pa­ny over US$500,000 but which was nev­er prop­er­ly ad­dressed by the board.

“The lack of sanc­tion/ac­count­abil­i­ty for the Black Gold fi­as­co which re­sult­ed in a loss of over US$500,000 for the com­pa­ny, al­though clear cul­pa­bil­i­ty could be de­ter­mined from the Au­dit Re­port and Gen­er­al in­for­ma­tion known among staff,” Mitchell wrote.

While the let­ter did not say much more on that mat­ter, NP in­sid­ers told Guardian Me­dia that there was no prop­er due dili­gence con­duct­ed be­fore NP de­cid­ed to pur­sue the Black Gold mat­ter.

“The req­ui­site Board ap­provals were not ob­tained and that they could not find the prin­ci­pals of the com­pa­ny ini­tial­ly en­gaged,” the in­sid­er said.

“Our fi­nance and le­gal staff were to­tal­ly against the trans­ac­tion but were di­rect­ed to par­tic­i­pate but this did not come out in the au­dit,” the source said.

“What is re­quired is a foren­sic au­dit. There was al­so a re­port on this re­cent­ly com­plet­ed by the Min­istry of Fi­nance,” the in­sid­er said.

Mitchell’s let­ter al­so said that there was a “un­sub­stan­ti­at­ed de­lay” for over 10 months in hir­ing a chief pro­cure­ment of­fi­cer.

“Giv­en that the short­list of can­di­dates to be in­ter­viewed was fi­nalised in Feb­ru­ary 2019 and which is now im­pact­ing the com­pa­ny’s state of readi­ness and abil­i­ty to adopt and com­ply with the re­quire­ments of the pro­cure­ment leg­is­la­tion,” Mitchell said.

He al­so ques­tioned the ex­ec­u­tive de­ci­sion to re­place three di­rec­tors “for no plau­si­ble rea­son” and the uni­lat­er­al sus­pen­sion of Board and Com­mit­tee meet­ings for over three months from May to Au­gust 2019.

“De­spite hav­ing a ful­ly and du­ly con­sti­tut­ed board of di­rec­tors, this de­lay­ing de­ci­sions and the progress of the com­pa­ny,” Mitchell said in the let­ter.

Un­der the head­ing “ex­po­sures”, Mitchell list­ed three main con­cerns in­clud­ing the lim­it­ed progress of the com­pa­ny Cap­i­tal Projects, de­lays in ex­e­cut­ing key projects and ini­tia­tives and NP’s in­abil­i­ty to en­hance op­er­at­ing ef­fi­cien­cies.

Mitchell said that NP was un­able to ex­e­cute its cap­i­tal projects be­cause it lacked en­gi­neers. He said NP failed to ex­e­cute the key projects be­cause it lacked a Project Man­age­ment of­fice.

“I cham­pi­oned this with lim­it­ed suc­cess be­cause of the re­stric­tions in hir­ing the re­quired qual­i­ty re­sources,” he said.

“My con­cern is that the re­al losers in this de­ba­cle are NP, the em­ploy­ees of NP and the stake­hold­ers by ex­ten­sion,” Mitchell wrote.

“The work to en­sure the long-term sur­vival of the com­pa­ny had now start­ed to gain mo­men­tum and the skills re­quired to see it through are not avail­able in abun­dance,” he said.

“If not prop­er­ly ad­dressed NP will be­come just an­oth­er ca­su­al­ty en­ter­prise that we read about dai­ly,” Mitchell wrote.

Guardian Me­dia con­tact­ed Mitchell yes­ter­day on the mat­ter of the email, but while he con­firmed that it was his email to staff, he de­clined to com­ment fur­ther.

Guardian Me­dia al­so con­tact­ed NP chair­man Sahid Ho­sein who al­so de­clined to com­ment.

Ho­sein said he would ad­dress in­ter­nal mat­ters at NP at a lat­er date.

This article was posted in its entirety as received by This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of, its sponsors or advertisers.

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