Former NESOL boss takes hot seat at PAAC

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 04, 2018

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FORMER managing director of National Energy Solutions Limited (NESOL) Carolyn Warren says she was never instructed by the agency's board or anyone else to promote Lawrence Pommells as acting chief engineer when the chief engineer, Anthony Brown, went on leave in 2017.

Warren appeared at yesterday's meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament.

She had resigned from NESOL in July following pressure from the Opposition, but was called back to answer questions which some members said needed clarification.

Warren explained that several people in the agency had been sent on leave because of the escalating costs to the company for leave entitlements, adding that chief engineer Brown was among them.

Warren said Pommells, who had been with the company since 2011, was most suited at the time to fill the position.

“As far as I was told, Pommells was up for promotion from 2014/15 because he was one of the most experienced engineers… I was not instructed by the board, [but] when we looked at his record Pommells was the best one at the time to fill that position; there was no reason not to promote Mr Pommells,” she stated.

Pommell's promotion and designation as signing officer has been questioned by the PAAC for months. Brown, NESOL's chief engineer, told the committee in July that upon his return from leave in November 2017 he found that Pommells, who had previously reported to him, had been appointed to act on his behalf for seven months.

He said Pommells continued to function as a signing officer even after his return, and informed the committee that he himself was no longer a signing officer. Brown is again on leave and Kirk Boughton is acting in his position.

Warren was also questioned about NESOL's outsourcing of the solar energy installation works on community access point (CAP) sites around the island. The company was engaged by the Universal Service Fund (USF) to install solar energy systems at the sites in order to contain electricity costs at the facilities.

The projects was outsourced to Peak Energy Solutions, but it has been revealed that there were no written contracts for the projects.

The engagement has become a source of controversy given that Warren had previously worked with the principal of Peak, Lennie Gordon, for 14 years.

She told the PAAC yesterday that she had recommended Gordon for the project, and he was engaged on April 19, 2017. His company was formed three months later.

Warren stressed that NESOL is a contractor and does not actually carry out any of the works it is contracted to do. “All the work at NESOL is outsourced,” she stressed. She noted that it had been indicated in the MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the USF that NESOL engages external partners, but the management of the USF has stressed that it was unaware of the outsourcing.

The former managing director also sought to explain multiple payments made to Peak Energy for work on 19 CAP sites. She pointed out that NESOL got approval from the USF for work on the sites at various times, and that these were done accordingly, resulting in 16 payments to Peak.

“It was an ongoing process…I followed the exact procedure that existed at NESOL for engagement of services for work,” she stated.

Warren also told the PAAC that, during her 18-month tenure at NESOL, she had never seen a tender process for any of its outsourced work because the payments all fell below the $2-million threshold for tendering.

Peak has been paid $12.5 million for work done, and another $9 million is owed to the company.

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