With a Commission of Inquiry set to conduct investigations into his administration, Premier Andrew Fahie has hinted that the Commission should focus its investigations on three of the territory’s leading scandals that have already generated legitimate reports.
The Commission seeks to investigate allegations of corruption and abuse of power within the public service. But Fahie has suggested that the Commission’s focus needs to be shifted to scandals coming out of the previously governing National Democratic Party (NDP).
Following the governor’s bombshell announcement of the inquiry, Fahie said: “Starting in March 2019, weeks after taking office, this government administration under the leadership of Premier Andrew A. Fahie made and continues to make inquiries of Governor Augustus Jaspert concerning the steps to be taken in an effort to clear the names of accused persons in relation to any of the three major investigations that were conducted by the Public Accounts Committee, the Auditor General, and/or the Police, namely: the Pier Park Project, BVI Airways [and] the Elmore Stoutt High School Wall.”
Three project meets criteria
Premier Fahie said he believes the three aforementioned scandals — all of which have, or are being investigated by at least one of the territory’s institutions of accountability — all qualify, according to the Act that governs the Commission, to be escalated to a Commission of Inquiry.
He argued that a Commission ought not to be ordered until any government body being accused of wrongdoing was first probed by any of the territory’s institutions of accountability such as the Auditor General’s Office.
“It is only after these stages of the process are completed and investigations deemed inconclusive would the way be paved for a Commission of Inquiry. This has always been the process followed because it is the only process that allows for good governance to function in a manner that keeps the tenets of democracy sacred,” Fahie explained.
All three of the scandals which cost taxpayers millions of dollars all occurred under the former National Democratic Party (NDP) government.
The Pier Park Project caused the NDP government to be under heavy scrutiny after the then Works Minister Mark Vanterpool said the completed project cost $82.9 million — exceeding the estimated budget by $30 million.
And, in what can be described as improper conduct, the said government responded by appointing its own auditor to probe their conduct in relation to the project, therefore raising legitimacy concerns of the audit.
7.2 million BVI Airway
The BVI Airways project is another major scandal to rock the former NDP government. The NDP handed the airline 7.2 million of taxpayer dollars to commence direct flights between the BVI and Miami in the USA. However, the airline later laid off its staff; claiming that it needed more money to fly. To date, the funds have not been recouped.
Since taking office in 2019, Fahie’s VIP government took the attorney responsible for the deal Lester Hyman before the courts and won. Since then, details from the Auditor General’s report on the case found a number of discrepancies and malpractices by high level officials in public office.
A criminal investigation has since been launched into the matter.
Meanwhile, the investigations into the Elmore Stoutt High School wall, which is estimated to have cost taxpayers nearly $1 million, was completed by the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force in June 2020 and handed to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for further proceedings.
Investigations into the wall project were launched after the release of a special report from the Office of the Auditor General. The report concluded that the former Myron Walwyn-led Education Ministry did not comply with the government’s Public Finance Regulations — the laws that govern such projects.
Auditor General Sonia Webster also accused the said ministry of producing ‘false’ information to the government’s treasury department in relation to the project.
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