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Arch rivals clash over who ‘wasted’ public funds

Myron Walwyn

Myron Walwyn

Leader of the Opposition Andrew Fahie is likely to be investigated for more than $600,000 that was spent on a study to test the feasibility of establishing a medical school in the British Virgin Islands while he served as minister of education.

The current education minister, Myron Walwyn, yesterday said he will ask the Public Accounts Committee to probe the matter.

According to Walwyn, the issue of establishing a medical school locally did not require the employment of an overseas consultant, Effect Inc.

He said the former minister could easily have ensured that the Higher Education Licensing Act was in effect.

Walwyn explained that the Higher Education Licensing Act facilitates the establishment of a Board that could have examined the issue of the medical school free of cost.

Walwyn added that he recently had the legislation passed, and already even a medical school is seeking to be established locally.

“There is a company that comes in here called Effect Inc that walked away with $602,345.88 of the public’s funds for something that I did for free – for something that could have been done for free. And I want people to look in to see who Effect Inc is because there is more in the mortar besides the pestle. And I am going to be asking the Public

Accounts Committee (PAC) to look into this matter, because it is a very troubling matter. How could you justify [spending that amount of money]?” Walwyn said while he and the former minister jostled for talking opportunities in the House.

The former minister was quick to declare that Walwyn doesn’t have the power to tell the PAC who to investigate.
He also tried to explain that, while he served at minister, he was not made aware of the company being hired to undertake the medical school study.

“The minister is saying that he is asking the Public Accounts Committee to investigate this matter. But the minister knows better; the minister can’t direct the Public Accounts Committee… The minister was not part of the process.

There was a tendering process, a competitive bidding, and there was a direction the governor was going,” the former education minister continued.

“If that existed, it never came to me as minister, and the board that was in never told me that. I want to make it abundantly clear to the people of the Virgin Islands. That’s intentionally misleading the people.”

Andrew Fahie. File photo

Andrew Fahie. File photo

Walwyn, in the meantime, stated that he has more issues that he is likely to have investigated, based on what he had inherited from the former minister.

How the controversy started

Before the controversy started over the amount spent on the medical school study, the former education minister accused Walwyn of massive overspending on a wall built recently around Elmore Stoutt High School (ESHS) in Road Town.

Walwyn, in a press statement, denied the claim made by the former minister.

In a statement regarding the wall, WALWYN SAID:

“It is unfortunate that Honourable Fahie continues to blatantly misrepresent the facts on many important matters taking place in the country.

For the Honorable Member to suggest that the cost of the wall around ESHS was doubled would be to suggest that the Permanent Secretary (who is the accounting officer in the Ministry of Education); the Assistant Secretary who is responsible for projects; the external Project Manager Mr Steve Augustine; and the Ministry of Finance’s entire project unit are all dishonest persons; and I will not allow Hon Fahie to suggest this.

The wall around the ESHS is in excess of $1,600 linear feet, and anyone who has knowledge of construction would tell you that it is totally impossible to do a wall of this length and scope for $300,000.

In his quest to grab power, Hon Fahie must consider the effects of his ever-increasing baseless and untrue utterances on the territory.

It is time for Hon Fahie to put up or shut up!

If he is of the view that the cost of the wall around the ESHS was inflated, then I encourage him and in fact it is his duty as a member of the Public Accounts Committee to ask for this matter to be looked into.

I will also be asking the Public Accounts Committee to look into many questionable matters that I continue to discover almost on a monthly basis that took place during Hon Fahie’s tenure as minister for education.”

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