Education Minister Myron Walwyn said he is concerned about the operations of the Office of the Auditor General, whose report on the perimeter wall around Elmore Stoutt High School, he said, is vastly deficient and unbalanced.
The Auditor General’s report concluded that the manner in which the project was executed gives the ‘appearance’ that the ministry sought to “avoid procurement requirements that have been established to secure value for money on government projects”.
But, while seeking to defend himself and his ministry, Walwyn commissioned an independent report. He further pointed to inconsistencies in the auditor general’s report on the wall that cost $985,690.86. This cost exceeded the estimated amount of $828,004.10.
The auditor general prepared two reports – a first draft, and a final draft, which was called a ‘special report’. The ministry was able to respond to any concerns that arose in each draft or the report. But, Walwyn noted that the auditor general’s office ignored all his ministry’s explanations when preparing their reports.
Walwyn said the omission of his ministry’s responses from the auditor general’s report on the wall project was egregious, disrespectful, and something that tarnishes the professional integrity of himself and his ministry.
He noted that the auditor general’s special report (the final draft) was exactly the same as the first draft.
“This could lead a bystander to believe that the determination of the final audit was made way in advance of the first draft. And if this is, in fact, the case, it is very, very sad.”
“It cannot be accepted that the auditor general can issue a final report that is very often made a public document, and totally ignore the responses of the particular ministry that is being audited. When that is the case, the auditor general’s office can write whatever they want to write in an audit report,” said Walwyn, who argued that the report on the wall was devoid of all facts.
Petty contractors caused cost overrun of wall project
Walwyn then noted that the wall project had a cost overrun of a little more than $157,000 because of the petty contracts that were issued for the project.
He said these petty contractors had varying costs for their respective services; even when two different contractors were offering the same service.
“The cost and square footage submitted to Cabinet for the wall was based on the project being carried out by one contractor as a whole. We all know it is highly unlikely that a project of this type in the Virgin Islands would ever be done by one contractor … We [therefore] asked for the work to be done by the petty contract system. This, I will readily admit, was an error by my ministry.”
Roughly 70 contractors were engaged using 15 petty contracts and 64 work orders.
The wall is about 1,562 feet long and about eight to 10 feet high.
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