The parliamentary opposition is questioning whether anyone had tampered with two financial documents that Premier and Minister of Finance Dr D Orlando Smith made public yesterday (April 18) when he tabled them in the House of Assembly.
Those documents are the Auditor General’s Reports for the years 2010 and 2011. They show how the now Opposition Virgin Islands Party (VIP) handled the territory’s financial affairs when it formed the government in the two years mentioned above.
Recently appointed Leader of the Opposition Andrew Fahie questioned if anyone had altered the financial reports, considering that the Auditor General presented them to the government ‘a few years ago’, but the government is only now making them public.
“Can the premier and minister of finance confirm for this Hounourable House if the reports being laid today are exactly the same reports in content and in every respect as was received from the Office of the Auditor General; or does the reports being laid include any amendments made since received from the Office of the Auditor General?” Fahie asked.
Premier Smith suggested that no one has tampered with the reports.
“I don’t think anyone could change the reports of the Auditor General; I want to assure the Honourable Leader of the Opposition that those are the [real] reports that are being tabled,” the premier said.
The Auditor General reports for 2010 and 2011 were eventually made public, but Opposition member Julian Fraser thinks the government is withholding two other important documents that should have been made public yesterday.
Those two documents, which Fraser said are being withheld, are the Treasury’s report and the Financial Secretary’s report in relation to 2010 and 2011.
Those reports should have been presented to the public at the same time the Auditor General’s reports were being presented yesterday, Fraser maintained.
He said he is ‘puzzled’ that some of the documents were not available.
“I am puzzled as to the documents being laid on the table being the Auditor General’s reports which could only have been prepared in the presence of the Treasury’s report. Why is it that the premier hasn’t seen it fit to table those reports at the same time [he is tabling the Auditor General’s report]? Also where is the Financial Secretary’s report that goes along with the documents from the Treasury?” added Fraser.
In response, Premier Smith admitted that he has not seen the two reports that Fraser said are being withheld.
“The reports that are laid on the table (made public) – the Auditor General’s reports 2010 and 2011 – were the ones which were available, which I have brought to this Honourable House. As I understand, at the time of laying this report (Auditor General’s report), I have not see the report from either the Financial Secretary or the Accountant General. Those reports are with the Accountant General,” Premier Smith said.
After listening to that explanation, Fraser maintained that “it doesn’t add up”.
He suggested that, if any amendment is to be made to the two reports that are being withheld, the two Auditor General’s Reports that were made public yesterday may eventually have to be withdrawn.
That is because information in the reports published and reports that are being withheld have to be “synchronized”, added Fraser, who also represents the Third Electoral District in the House of Assembly.
Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition, Fahie, noted that he supports the arguments Fraser had raised.
Fahie added that, with some of the documents being withheld, the public will not get the ‘complete picture’ of how the former VIP administration handled the territory’s money in the years 2010 and 2011.
“To lay (publish) the Auditor General’s report in the absence of those documents that the Member for the Third District (Fraser) has rightfully mentioned, leaves one to wonder if anything is being changed in these documents that are being laid (made public). And the complete picture has to be given to this Honourable House in unison – the Auditor General’s report, the Accountant General’s report, and the Financial Secretary’s reports,” added the Opposition leader.
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