Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Verbal Corruption! - NESol paid millions to company without a contract, PAAC told

Published:Thursday | September 6, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer
Phillip Paulwell

"Verbal corruption" allowed the state-owned National Energy Solution Limited (NESol) to hire a private firm, Peak Energy Solutions Limited, and pay it millions of dollars for service rendered without a contract in place. That was the charge of Fitz Jackson, an opposition member of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), at a meeting yesterday.

The PAAC was told that Peak Energy Solutions was contracted by NESol, which was then headed by Carolyn Warren, and was paid more than $12 million for work it claimed had been done. This was verified by its then operations engineer, Laurence Pommels, who has since been arrested by the police after he was allegedly found with more than $35 million in cash.

Phillip Paulwell, the opposition spokesman on energy, led the questioning during yesterday's sitting at Gordon House, which also heard concerns raised by Mikael Phillips and PAAC Chairman Wykeham McNeill.

Paulwell said that the response to questions tabled by members of the PAAC, which pointed to a police probe now under way, raised additional serious questions.

"The police have a role and we have a role. These investigations cannot be open-ended, and I don't want to trespass on the preserve of the investigators in that regard. But it should not impede the work that we have to do. And I think it might be appropriate for you, Chairman (McNeill), in your role, to enquire of the police where they are with their investigations and the timeline will be provided to us," said Paulwell, arguing that he did not believe that the work of the committee would encroach on that of the police.

 

WORKED ON 19 CAP SITES

 

Paulwell added: "We had asked the value of the contract between Peak Energy Solutions Limited and NESol, and I am quite startled that the report from the ministry is that there was no written contract between Peak Energy Solution Limited and NESol, even though further on, they went on to say that Peak Energy worked on 19 CAP (community access point) sites between October 2017 and July 2018, without a written contract, and have been paid."

He noted that Warren was a director of the Universal Service Fund, and also chairman of the projects committee, which contracted NESol.

"There are specific, very specific government procurement procedures that must be followed. One of the roles of our committee is to ensure that the processes are properly followed. I cannot imagine a contract with a government entity that is not written. It's totally something outside of anything that I would have seen in all the years," said McNeill.

The PAAC ended its summer holiday break yesterday and immediately continued its probe of happenings at entities that fell under the then Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology, which has led to several resignations so far, including that of the minister.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com