Tuesday 18 June, 2019

NESOL boss admits to drug conviction; more calls for Wheatley firing

The situation surrounding the hiring of staff at the state-run National Energy Solutions Limited (NESOL), got messier on Thursday, with the revelation by the parliamentary Opposition and subsequent acknowledgement by the Managing Director at the entity, Carolyn Warren, that she had failed to disclosed that she was convicted for a drug offence at the time she was employed there in 2016.

Opposition spokesman on Energy, Phillip Paulwell, pounced on the information on Thursday, calling for Prime Minister Andrew Holness to immediately fire Warren. He also used the information to pile pressure on the embattled former Energy Minister, under whose former portfolio NESOL falls, accusing him of a lack of accountability in the performance of his duties.

Paulwell asserted that the information that has emerged about Warren was reason enough for the Prime Minister to fire Wheatley from the Cabinet. Holness stripped Wheatley of the energy portfolio nearly two weeks ago in light of the unfolding scandal at the state-owned oil refinery Petrojam. However, he remains a member of the Cabinet, having retained the Science and Technology portfolio.

Meanwhile, Warren was quick to respond to the allegations made against her. By Thursday night she had issued a statement acknowledging that she was in fact convicted for a drug offence in 1993. She said she was given a suspended sentence and did not spend a single day in prison, although Paulwell, in his statement on Thursday said Warren had spent three years in prison for trafficking cocaine.

She said that, for the past 25 years of her life, she had dedicated herself to working with young people to ensure they don't make the same mistake she did.

During the ensuing 25 years, Warren has gone back to school and earned an undergraduate degree in management and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in the same field. She said she also spent years in the private sector and has developed a reputation for her dedication and professionalism.

“I spent 14 years at Nationwide News Network rising to a sales manager. I also worked at a major financial institution for many years and I have also done major work with other large businesses in Jamaica after my mistake,” Warren said in her statement. She said she was also able to send her children to university since her conviction.

“I am dedicated to my church, my family and the many people I work with over the years,” she said, disclosing that she has applied to have her record expunged.

 “Whatever my fate, I will continue to work in my church and make a contribution to young people to ensure that others are not misled and make the same mistake I did 25 years ago.

“I am not the same person I was 25 years ago. I made a mistake then and I paid for it. I suspect I may pay for it for the rest of my life. At NESOL, I am attempting to serve my country. I apologize for not declaring what happened 25 years ago prior to my appointment. I did not do so because I know I am not the same person and I figured people may try to judge me,” Warren explained.

“Even if Mr. Paulwell and the PNP score what they may feel is a political victory in having my services terminated, I will rebuild my life again,” Warren said.

According to Paulwell, “this was just another example of the lack of accountability by Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley in the performance of his duties as minister of energy and reason why he should be dismissed by the prime minister without further delay”.

Paulwell also said the board of directors of NESOL was culpable as it was clear that no due diligence and fit and proper criteria were applied in selecting Warren as head of such an important company in the Government of Jamaica. He said the board should disclose whether Warren had made any declarations to them of her past conviction and reasons for confirming her employment as managing director.

Questions were earlier raised about the qualifications of Operations Engineer Lawrence Pommells, at Wednesday’s sitting of Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) at which Warren appeared.

Pommels, is before the courts on a litany of charges including money laundering, breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act and bribery in relation to the seizure in June of $85 million in cash and several high end motor vehicles at premises in Old Harbour, St Catherine. He’s currently on interdiction from NESoL.

Warren had told the committee on Wednesday that she was unable to provide contracts for which Pommells had signing responsibility when he acted in place of the chief engineer because those files have been seized by investigators from the Financial Investigation Division (FID).

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