Five managers of the Human Resources Department at State-owned Petrotrin were suspended yesterday, following the conclusion of a four-year audit into a recruitment exercise.
Those suspended were Ryerson Bagoo, Fareeda Mohammed, Gillian Cherotiere, Franka Mohammed and Bianca Attong.
Among the positions the managers held were head of staffing, head of HR technology and head of planning policies and control.
The suspensions came days after Petrotrin undertook a major organisational shake-up in the face of falling oil prices and the hiring of former communication minister Neil Parsanlal as CEO of Petrotrin's Employee Assistance Programmes Services Ltd.
Contacted about the suspensions yesterday, Petrotrin chairman, Andrew Jupiter, said he had just left a meeting and advised that the questions be emailed to company's corporate communications manager, Gillian Friday, for a response.
"I am sure if you send those questions right away you would get a response this afternoon. If you can kindly do that... because I am sure it is a management decision, if that is the case," Jupiter said.
In response to the emailed query, Joy Antoine, head of the external communications and branding, who responded on Friday's behalf, wrote: "In keeping with its continued thrust to improve accountability and transparency, Petrotrin conducted an internal audit of its recruitment processes for the period 2012 to 2016."
Antoine said the recruitment audit was one of several scheduled audits to review the company's control processes in keeping with approved policies and procedures.
"As a result of the audit findings and recommendations and in keeping with standard industrial relations practice, further investigations involving key employees are being conducted. These investigations are currently underway and as a result, no further comments can be made at this time," Antoine explained.
However, a source told the T&T Guardian the five managers were suspended for allegedly recruiting for positions not on the establishment, recruiting while a medical was pending and recruiting individuals who did not meet job specifications.
In a circular, dated June 15, signed by Petrotin's president, Fitzroy Harewood, and entitled "Organisational Changes – Refining and Marketing Division", which was forwarded to employees, it was stated that the oil company was undertaking organisational changes and recognised the need to maintain a very strong focus on the completion of the Ultra-Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD) plant for the long-term viability of its refinery and organisation.
Admitting that Petrotrin had been faced with previous challenges, Harewood said a concerted effort was needed to ensure its successful commission of the ULSD plant by the first quarter of 2018 or before. The plant, initiated in 2009, was incomplete.
As such, effective July 1, Petrotrin saw the need to shift Johnathan Barden from the position of current vice-president, refining, to project management consultant.
This moves comes even though Barden, in Petrotrin's performance update in April, boasted that "the company's refinery utilisation had increased from approximately 38 per cent in 2014 to 70 per cent for the past two months."
Barden had also revealed that the company's crude oil processing had soared from the 2014 average of 112 kbbl/day to approximately 140 kbbl/day in 2015.
In a report to investors, Barden also pointed out that energy efficiency in the refinery had improved by over 20 per cent, compared to the 2014 average, while flaring losses had been reduced.
Barden's new duties entail supporting the ULSD projects, particularly with respect to the main project activities, including the resolution of current engineering and technical issues, completion of construction activities, commissioning of the plant and handover to the refining and marketing division.
Astor Harris, who has rejoined Petrotrin, is the company's new vice-president, refining and marketing.
Harris, who worked previously as a process engineer at Petrotrin's Pointe-a-Pierre refinery, is currently a long-serving vice-president of Phoenix Park Gas Processor Ltd and an experienced chemical engineer.
Harewood stated that in the context of Petrotrin's ongoing review of the organisation, effective July 1 "the marketing and training sub-division will be reintegrated into the Refining Division and the combined division will again be known as the Refining and Marketing Division."
This division is being led by Harris. Both Harris and Barden report to Harewood.
My CV speaks for itself–ex-minister
Former minister Neil Parsanlal yesterday said he went through a rigorous process before he was hired at Petrotrin.
Parsanlal, who served as MP for Lopinot-Bon Air West from 2007 to 2010 for the People's National Movement, said he was appointed to the post on June 13.
However, Parsanlal, who was recently named as chairman of the National Library and Information Systems Authority, said the position and his appointment were advertised.
He said he went through an extensive interview process and had the necessary psychometric evaluations done before he was chosen.
Parsanlal denied he "passed through the back door" to get the job.
"There is absolutely no truth to that. My CV will speak for itself," he added.
Last June, Petrotrin's losses multiplied 11.2 times to reach US$168 million for the nine months ended June 30, compared to a US$15 million loss for the same period in 2014.
Several calls to president general of the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union Ancel Roget's cellphone went unanswered yesterday.