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Imbert: Petrotrin, a ward of the State

Published: 
Monday, December 18, 2017
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Wilfred Espinet

Petrotrin Chairman Wilfred Espinet said the cash-strapped oil company is in dire need of better management and organisation.

He said it seemed that “profitability is the last thing on the minds of people.”

Responding to concerns raised by Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Energy which raised questions about the South West Soldado field project, which started of at a cost of $400 million and is currently at $1.2 billion and only 65 per cent complete, Espinet said “it was amazing to us that anybody could come and say we started a two year arrangement that is now six years, $400 million gone to $1.2 billion and we expect $1.7 billion. Nobody is going to give you any assurance that it will not be $2.4 billion by the time it gets there and whether or not oil will be something that is being used.”

The Committee chaired by Corporation Sole Finance Minister Colm Imbert, who himself had labelled Petrotrin a “ward of the State,” said that Petrotrin had “over $2 billion in assets that have not yet generated one single cent of revenue.” These include, he said, the Gas to Liquids Plant and the Ultra-low Sulphur Plant.

“All of these are fiascos that have put a huge burden on the State,” according to Espinet.

Espinet said even when oil prices were $140 a barrel “Petrotrin was losing money.”

But because the country could have afforded it, he said “we turned a blind eye. The predicament is today you cannot afford it and you have to take a whole different perspective on how we are going to exist.”

In its current configuration, he said, the company is “operating at an ineffective level.”

The Selwyn Lashley Committee Report has recommended that the company be broken into three units. A recommendation which Committee member Paula Gopee-Scoon deemed “costly,” asking whether “a cost-benefit analysis was done.”

Espinet said the current board is presently studying the report submitted to the Government in June and “we expect by the end of the month to complete the study of how we go forward. We will bring the realities to the government and everybody else,” he said.

Asked whether current division heads are effective leaders. Espinet said he did not want to “attack any specific person,” but he admitted there is “inadequate management capability and capabilities in general. There is a need for capable management to do it.”

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