Project management problems at Petrotrin

Efficient project management remains a perennial thorn in Petrotrin’s side, as there are projects which are yet to come off the ground, the company’s chairman Lindsay Gillette said yesterday. Gillette and senior Petrotrin executives, including its president Khalid Hassanali, appeared before Public Accounts (Enterprises) Committee of Parliament yesterday to discuss the petroleum company’s financial statements for the years ended September 30, 2008-2011. The Gillette-led board was installed in October 2010.

Gillette was responding to concerns raised by Diego Martin North East MP Colm Imbert, who zeroed in on the status of the yet-to-be completed administrative building. Imbert said that was a reflection of a series of failed Petrotrin projects dating back several years.

The opposition MP, who said he had been “looking at Petrotrin for the last 20 years,” added: “I have formed a view—and it has nothing to do with which party is in power—that Petrotrin often runs into difficultly in managing its projects. Its projects are often over budget and over time. It seems to have chronic deficiencies in managing its projects.”

Imbert said during his tenure as works and transport minister he was asked to assist with reconfiguration of the road system on the highway side of the Petrotrin estate to allow better access to the proposed head office. Five years later, however, that building is yet to be completed. Gillette described the proposed building as “very elaborate” and “difficult to maintain in the future,” adding it was stopped because a large chunk of the $400 million budget had already been spent on architecture and on the project manager.

He said the purpose of the building was to consolidate all operations into one site, as core managers were scattered throughout Petrotrin’s estate. While admitting the idea was good, Gillette said the cost overruns were ridiculous.  He said a decision is yet to be made about what will be done with the building. “We were installed in October, 2010 and we ourselves have not seen a project that has not been on time. Yet still what is very ludicrous in the whole issue is, we give project-management courses.

“This is an inherent problem and we as a board face on a regular basis, project management and cost overruns in particular,” Gillette said. Another issueraised as an example of inefficiency  was the failed gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant at its Pointe-a-Pierre refinery, which cost taxpayers $2.8 billion.

Gillette, who said there was no need to build such a plant in 2006, said the plan was wrong from the beginning. Despite hiring international consultants, it could not determined why the plant could not work. Gillette said the company is still doing an analysis of what went wrong with the GTL project.

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