Sat | Nov 17, 2018

NESoL engineer authorised payments seven months after tenure ended

Published:Thursday | July 12, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrian Walker/Staff Reporter
Oswald Williams

The Oswald Williams-led board at the state-owned National Energy Solutions Limited (NESoL) allowed Lawrence Pommels, operations engineer, to sign cheques for seven months after his stint as acting chief engineer ended in November last year.

According to company policy, Pommels should have been removed as a signing officer after Anthony Brown, chief engineer, returned from leave that ran from May to November 2017.

Pommels, 33, has been placed on interdiction after he was arrested and charged along with Ricardo Harris, a mechanic, last month for money laundering and breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act.

The Gleaner contacted the board chairman yesterday for a comment on the matter, but he terminated the call.

"It was taken to the board ... . [It] made the decision that he (Pommels) be added and unfortunately, it (his removal as a signing officer) was not done in time ... . He was not removed," said Carolyn Warren, managing director of NESoL, during yesterday's sitting of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC).

Warren disclosed that signing officers at NESoL included the managing director, board chairman, director of finance and chief engineer, none of whom can solely authorise a cheque.

PAAC member Fitz Jackson asked Warren to provide details of contracts signed by Pommels, but she noted that the Financial Investigation Division (FID) was in possession of those documents, and she would furnish them when they were returned. The FID, along with the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, carried out an operation in Old Harbour, St Catherine, that led to the seizure of $35 million and four high-end vehicles. The case is currently before the St Catherine Parish Court.

The PAAC was stunned yesterday by the chief engineer's inability to articulate his responsibilities since returning to his post after a six-month absence.

Brown explained, "My understanding is that Mr Pommels is doing work, and I am doing work as well." His comment triggered laughter from PAAC members.

The managing director then advised, "Mr Pommels was in charge of the department. When the chief engineer came back, there were certain projects that were ongoing ... for example, Grange Hill and Barrett Hall. Mr Pommels would have [had] to continue along with Mr Brown to do those projects."

NESoL falls under the energy ministry and has a keen focus on providing new energy solutions in an effort to expand electricity supply to rural communities.

brian.walker@gleanerjm.com