Sunday 12 July, 2020

Pommels continued signing cheques 7 months after acting role at NESol

Fitz Jackson... pressed the issue at Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) meeting.

Fitz Jackson... pressed the issue at Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) meeting.

Lawrence Pommels, the man who is now before the courts on money laundering and bribery charges, was allowed to continue signing cheques for seven months beyond the time he was authorised to do so at the state-owned National Energy Solutions Limited (NESol).

This was the startling revelation at Wednesday’s sitting of Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC).

Managing Director at NESol, Carolyn Warren, told the PAAC that Pommels acted as the entity’s chief engineer for seven months, during which time he was allowed to sign cheques.

However, he continued signing after Chief Engineer Anthony Brown returned from leave. In fact, Warren disclosed that the 33-year-old Pommels continued signing cheques up until the time he was arrested in June and was subsequently placed on interdiction.

Pommels and co-accused 34-year-old mechanic, Ricardo Harris, a sub-contractor with NESol, were arrested during a joint operation involving members of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Branch (C-TOC) and the Financial Investigation Division (FID) in Old Harbour, St Catherine on June 7 of this year.

It was later stated that Pommels or the two was/were reportedly held with $85 million in cash, four high-end motor vehicles and other valuables. They were also charged with breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act and possession of criminal property.

Warren told the PAAC that the NESol board approved Pommels’ signing authority when Brown went on leave. She said the managing director, the board chairman, the director of finance and the chief engineer are authorised to sign cheques. She said each cheque must have two authorised signatures for it to be valid.

As to why Pommels kept signing cheques long after Brown returned to work, Warren said: “It was not done in time… he was not removed”. She admitted that it should have been done.

While NESol representatives will not have to reappear before the PAAC, committee member, Fitz Jackson, has asked Warren to provide information on the contracts which were signed by Pommels during the 14 months in question – seven when he acted as chief engineer and seven after the chief engineer returned to work.

Warren told the committee that the request could not be met until the FID returns documents relating to those contracts, which were seized from NESol’s offices.

Meanwhile, committee members expressed surprise when the chief engineer had difficulty explaining what his job function was, in particular, his duties since he returned from leave.

After committee member, Mikhail Phillips, asked him several times, Brown finally said: “My understanding is that Mr Pommels is doing work and I am doing work as well.”

The response triggered laughter among the committee members.

Ms Warren intervened, explaining that although Brown had returned to office, Pommels had projects that were ongoing, and both he and Brown worked on those projects.

NESoL is a division of the Energy Ministry. It previously operated as the Rural Electrification Programme, but its mandate has been widened.

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