BVI News

Auditor General’s report indicates that former FS Neil Smith acted negligently in BVI Airways deal

By Kamal Haynes, BVI News Staff

Former Financial Secretary under the NDP administration Neil Smith, who was the government’s official liaison in the controversial BVI Airways deal, has been accused of acting negligently in his decision-making on a number of instances.

The Office of the Auditor General levelled these accusations in its special report about the former government’s failed $7.2 million deal with the airline.

The report revealed that Smith broke protocol on several occasions and failed to properly ventilate significant matters before making decisions.

The Auditor General’s report further said Smith facilitated for the airline’s operator parties – which included investor Bruce Bradley, Jerry Willoughby of BVI Airways and Scott Weisman of Colchester Aviation – to have ongoing high-level access and support from within the government.

Conflict of interest

According to the report, the decision to have Smith as government’s official liaison while still serving as the Financial Secretary clashed with the necessary checks and balances that were needed in the oversight of the deal.

This, the report said, led to unilateral decisions being made on important matters.

“The assignment of the Financial Secretary to facilitate the venture eliminated an important check that should exist between project execution and project financing. This created a conflict whereby the Financial Secretary’ s obligation to ensure the successful launching of the project may have obscured his public duty as the primary custodian of government’s finances,” the report stated.

It added: “The acute level of scrutiny that should have been applied to the financial and other issues of risk presented by the operator parties was replaced with insistent action to accommodate their requests.”

Instances identified with $6.8 million spent prematurely

The Auditor General’s report pointed to some of the decisions made by Smith after the government failed to obtain what is known as a ‘letter of credit’, which was requested by the operator parties.

A letter of credit is a document from a bank that guarantees payment (of the $7.2 million).

“That failure [to get the letter of credit] was followed by early payment of $4.8 million to the operator parties, the release of the escrow payment of $2.0 million without Cabinet authorization in January 2017, and active pursuit of a public loan guarantee and compensation payments requested by the operating parties. These were decisions made by the Financial Secretary as project liaison rather than public custodian,” the report said.

Government’s nominated director left in the dark

Additionally, Ryan Geluk, who was nominated by government to sit on the Board of Directors of the BVI Airways, said besides attending one meeting with the former Financial Secretary, he was not provided with any information regarding the airline’s operations.

“The only set of financial statements received were unaudited and for the 15 months pre-operational period from the commencement of the venture to 31 March 2017,” Geluk stated in the report.

After almost three years, a full criminal investigation has been launched into the failed BVI Airways deal which cost taxpayers $7.2 million.

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25 Comments

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  1. Haha says:

    We know this already. The opposition’s voices were loud and clear, they fought against this, NDP didn’t listen, the people that voted for them again in 2018 didn’t listen or care. If given the chance Marlon would finish the job of his colleagues and set us back in the stone ages.

    Like 29
    Dislike 7
    • @haha says:

      I will put on the record that Marlon cannot be trusted. No need to blog everything because God has a better way to deal with wicked people than anyone can. It not always obvious that the wicked is wicked. They come like a thief and a vampire in the night.

      Like 17
      Dislike 8
    • Bullwinkle says:

      How much of that $7.2 came back into their pockets as kickbacks, finders fees or payola?

      Like 2
      Dislike 2
  2. Vigilant says:

    Neil you are a good person you just got caught up with the wrong crowd that made you there scape goat.The doc kept a distance for this same reason if it goes sour it’s not him.

    Like 27
    Dislike 2
    • Soooo says:

      So the scapegoat is being set to take the fall for the real criminals. This is the way it is. The top ones in the deal always skate by untouched. The fact of the matter is that the leadership of both parties are guilty. Only the underlings are fed to the lions.

      Like 15
    • Deh Watcha says:

      When you know right, do right.

  3. Chuck says:

    This is one of the reasons I voted out the national Democratic Party. Not only was there misappropriation but the level of disrespect and non-transparency that used to occur was just pure madness. After hurricane Irma there was no premier in sight. The National Democratic Party dropped the ball. I will never forget. Those were the last straws. The people made the right decision to vote them out.

    Like 31
    Dislike 5
  4. 38 Spesh says:

    Dude is straight c——— he is educated enough to know exactly what he was doing. The Premier in his advance stage of age with the effects that goes along with it was taken advantage of. ex Premier trusted his family and got conned in the end. Ruining his name on the way out but N—- don’t care he is a hero to his family and that’s all that counts. H– w— and k— money put away securing their future. He KNOWS the only thing going jail is his reputation.
    Now tell me if that is the only penalty wouldn’t you help S— 7.2 million?

    Like 7
    Dislike 1
  5. Diaspora says:

    Neil Smith as Financial Secretary served in a staff position, ie, in an advisory capacity. Doctor the Hon D. Orlando Smith, MoF, was the line Officer with ultimate decision making responsibility. Responsibilities delegated, Dr. Smith didn’t relieve himself of the ultimate responsibility. True, prime ministers, premiers, ministers …..etc hire senior officers for their experience in legislative affairs and their technical knowledge.

    Clearly, Neil Smith appeared to have failed to adhere to some customary administrative practices. If there were any financial management controls in place, they may not have been followed. It appeared that he may not also have followed the terms and conditions of the contract. Further, was Dr. Smith apprised of the actions before they were taken? If no he is still responsibility for the outcome.

    Moreover, was the financial secretary inexperienced, inept and incompetent in financial management? Or in the quest to get non-stop flights off of top dead center and moving, all the guardrails were busted through? Was the agreement between NDP government and BVI Airways, a bruk airline, a well-intentioned project that got derailed?

    IMO, government elated about non-stop flights and the historical nature and legacy of it, it was willing to clear the way to make it happen. Nevertheless, there is no law against being stupid or inept or incompetent but there are laws against criminal intent and actions. The RVIPF is investigating to see if any laws were violated. Investigation completed, it will forward findings and recommendations to the DPP who will determine the next course of action.

    In any event, the defendant(s) under the constitution is entitled to due process, ie, get his/her day in court. It is important to note that being charge for a crime does not equate to guilt. One’s jury of one’s peers or a learned jurist will determine guilt or innocence. Guilty verdict returned, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court or Privy Council will probably be the final arbiter on the issue.

    Like 11
    • @Diaspora says:

      @Diaspora, pure theory. If Dr. Smith didn’t directly give BVI Airways scammers the money, how is he responsible? What king of sense that make?

      • Diaspora says:

        @@Diaspora, in both the private sector , public sector, politics and military, men and women in top leadership positions have ultimately responsibility for what happen in their organizations. For example, if a major party gets shellacked at the polls, typically the party leader resigns. A leader is held accountable and responsible for what he/she or what he/she should have done but didn’t do. Further, holding the leader accountable and responsible does not mean subordinates are not held responsible for violating organizational policies, as well as any committed crimes.

  6. Ning says:

    As a Director Ryan should have known better. Sorry, but as a Director, saying “you were kept in the dark” is contrary to Director obligations. Even more so as it relates to your position at BDO

    On Neil, I do not believe he acted unilaterally, I am almost certain he was told to do what he did. I am guessing he is the guy that will take the bulk of the heat, while others sail off into the night unscathed, and without a thought for Neil.

    Like 23
    • To Ning says:

      Well, if Ryan was involved….he wouldn’t admit to any wrongdoing, so, of course he will say he wasn’t involved

    • @Ning says:

      The real question is whether or how much the know-nothing Director was paid for his know-nothing role on behalf of the company.

  7. No nonsense says:

    Poor child was under pressure from the clan members and had to give in as usual

  8. lawyer says:

    the report never mention that a gun was held to his head to do what he did. In life we all have choices. Sometimes we just make wrong decisions. or in Neil’s case, bowing to phycological pressure. Allowing his actions to be manipulated by conmen.

  9. ? says:

    OH BOY IT IS WHAT IT IS! WHAT A WAY YOU KNOW A LOT.THAT MEANS YOU ARE A WOLF IN SHEEP CLOTHING JUST SAYING.

  10. The Truth says:

    Don’t be the fall guy, Neil. You too soft for jail. Rat em out lol.

    Like 10
    • Freedom says:

      Looks like everything was set up for **** to take the lick. If I go down, everybody going down. I will sing like a Canary on steroids. Then they will have to murk all of us.

  11. SB says:

    Listen the fraud part aint really bothering me. What bothering me is our OWN can help none resident people with no respect for our culture, ALIENS to decency and morality help steal the people money. Smh unforgivable in my book if somebody going to steal from me let it be my own people not demonic entities.

    Like 5
    Dislike 5
  12. Jane says:

    Mr Smith is being thrown under a large bus. I hope he was canny enough to realise the risk at the time and kept his own record of evidence so that he can point the fingers at those who directed this and who have benefitted from it. As to Mr ***** it is no good to say he was kept in the dark. He ought to have resigned at the time and he ought to have filed a SARS/STR to protect his own backside. The fact that he didnt do this meant that he was either ignorant of the law (he wasn’t), or he was too concerned with falling out of favour with the government and their lucrative no bid contracts to cry foul. Either way I am afraid that at least some of this buck does stick with him (or at least ***’s professional indemnity insurer).

  13. Our says:

    people are so shark like and opportunistis non creative peanut brains.

    Someone mentioned the word/name “Ning” for the first time in the comment section last week or week before, and all of a sudden one cansee its use everyday in comments.

    When i started commenting on here i used psuedos such as Umm and Hmm and a few others. Who tell you lizard brains didn’t jump on them.

    May God bless the soul ad spirit of the deceased Mr. “Ning.” May his soul rest in peace.

    Damn, there are like viruses!

  14. Bet You Didn't Know says:

    Ning used to eat bottles. This is no joke I saw him do it. He even gave me the bottle to check before. One thing is for certain, all the crap that goes on in BVI now could NEVER happen in the days of these kind of people. Leave Neil alone and fasten your seat belt..your on a roller coaster and all the impressions that politicians try to make will not change our destination.

  15. ReX FeRaL says:

    It is called corruption. **** and the rest of the NDP Government were CORRUPT,boasting, uppity and full of self pride what’s bringing them low right now.

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