Petrojam CFO tells court he was punished for following rules

PETROJAM’s Chief Financial Officer Delroy Brown testified on Monday, in the trial of two former executives of the State-run company, that he was suspended for five days in 2018 after resisting requests from former General Manager Floyd Grindley to do something that “was not correct”.

Grindley and former chairman of Petrojam Dr Perceval Singh are being tried for fraud in relation to the submission of claims amounting to US$73,620 between December 2016 and May 2018 for overseas travels which were never undertaken. Grindley is alleged to have aided and abetted the ex-chairman in the process used to make the fraudulent claims.

Brown gave evidence in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court that he was instructed to prepare a cheque that was to be sent as a donation to the Diabetes Association of Jamaica.

He told the court that in June 2017 he expressed to Grindley that he had difficulty preparing the cheque because it lacked a board resolution.

According to the witness, Grindley became upset and cursed at him, using expletives.

Grindley allegedly told Brown that he was obstructing the process and making it difficult. Brown subsequently told Grindley, in an e-mail, that he was disappointed with his use of expletives. He also told Grindley that in his entire working career it was the first time that undue influence was being brought to bear on him by requesting that he do something that was not correct.

Brown said he sent an e-mail to Grindley with two attachments — one of which was a document called Limits of authority — and copied it to then board Chairman Singh and Human Resource Manager Yolande Ramharrack.

“I copied Dr Singh to the e-mail because as chairman, I felt that he should be aware. The relationship between Mr Grindley and myself was a bit strained. August 31, 2017 I was called to Mr Grindley’s office in the presence of the HR manger, Yolande Ramharrack. I was given a suspension letter. I was suspended for five days. When I returned to work the relationship was still strained,” Brown said, claiming that there was no due process leading up to the suspension.

The prosecution proceeded to quiz Brown about a trip to London from February 25 to March 1, 2018 which he undertook with Leon Jarrett, Petrojam’s safety, environment, and quality manager.

Brown told the court that the purpose of the trip was to participate in an insurance renewal programme on behalf of Petrojam. He said usually Petrojam’s general manager, along with the safety manager, would attend this insurance meeting held annually in London. Grindley, who was general manager at the time, did not attend.

The prosecution probed whether Singh had attended the London meetings.

Brown’s response was that he did not see Singh at any of the meetings from February 25 to March 1, 2018.

“Mr Jarrett told me certain things that led me to believe Mr Singh would be [in London]. I left London to resume duties at Petrojam on March 5, 2018,” Brown said.

He testified that around March 5, 2018 he was asked if he saw Dr Singh in London.

He recalled seeing documents on airline expenses relating to the London trip and reimbursements that were to be made to Singh. A cheque was allegedly paid and cleared in the name of Perceval Singh.

“After signing that cheque I did not see it anymore. This cheque was signed for a reimbursement to Dr Singh for the insurance meetings. I did not see Dr Singh at the meeting but I signed the cheque because I left London before Mr Jarrett and I had no way of knowing if he met with Mr Jarrett subsequent to my departure,” Brown told the court.

Brown was shown numerous vouchers in relation to overseas travels and accommodation in 2018 and prior, that were allegedly signed by Dr Singh and approved by Grindley.

Earlier this year during the trial, restaurant owner Bhakta Das — who between 2018 and 2019 was general manager of Grange Tower Bridge Hotel in London, England — testified that the former Petrojam chairman did not show up at the hotel, although a reservation was made in his name.

According to Das, who testified via a secure video link from London, the hotel “received a booking on the 28th of February 2018” and “he [Dr Singh] was supposed to stay from the 2nd of March to the 5th of March and his departure date was to be the 6th of March”.

However, Singh did not check into the hotel, Das told the court.

Das had confirmed in court that Jarrett checked into the hotel on February 25, 2018.

“Mr Jarrett left on the 3rd of March 2018,” Das told the trial.

He also testified that Brown had arrived on February 25, 2018 and checked out on March 1, 2018.

The trial continues on Wednesday.

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