BVI News

Gov’t inflates stimulus $$ to fishers, farmers! Most not registered

Office of Auditor General

An audit of the government’s COVID-19 stimulus programme for farmers and fisherfolk has found that the Premier’s Office violated procedure and inflated its payments to recipients — a large number of whom were unlicensed and unregistered. 

The report from the audit conducted by the Office of the Auditor General (AG) was examined during a hearing of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Monday when AG Sonia Webster appeared to give evidence.

Looking firstly at the part of the report that dealt with stimulus grants to farmers, it was found that almost half of the persons on the Cabinet’s list of commercial farmers were not registered in the Agriculture Department’s database of registered farmers. 

Explaining why this was a concern, Webster told the COI: “The qualification for the grant was that you either had to be registered with Agriculture or present an affidavit indicating that you were indeed a farmer for the past three years. There is entirely the possibility that there are hundreds of affidavits that were received by the Premier’s Office indicating that these persons were indeed farmers. But, at the end of the day, the Agriculture Department did not know who they were. These, I should add, are supposed to be commercial farmers … not people who simply have a garden in their backyard.”

The Auditor General’s Office was unable to verify whether the Premier’s Office received any affidavits because she encountered “deliberate attempts” at blocking her from accessing government files needed to carry out her audit.

During the course of the audit, the AG’s Office conducted investigations to identify whether recipients were legitimately entitled to the stimulus grants. And with the help of the Agriculture Department — which was not involved in issuing the stimulus grants — the AG’s Office conducted site inspections of the farms of recipients.

The AG Office’s selected 22 farms for site visits. However, 11 of those farms could not be located by the Agriculture Department.

And of the remaining 11 farms, seven were located on government properties in Parquita Bay while four were on private land. The AG said two of the farms on private land showed activities that did not meet the scale of operations criteria for commercial farming.

Inflated payments by Premier’s Office

She further found that the amounts requested by farmers were inflated by Premier’s Office prior to payment. This, she said, resulted in payments that were substantially greater than the amounts requested.

Substantiating that claim, the AG’s report said her office audited a sample for requests made by 70 farmers. The requests in that sample totalled $351,730 but the amount actually paid to those 70 farmers totalled more than $1,000,000 — almost three times the value of the requests.

Giving an example, one applicant requested a roll of barbed wire for $50.99 and received $7,828. The person also asked $371 to build a fence and received $5,671. 

The AG concluded that the payments made to farmers don’t appear to be driven by need but largely by simply disbursing large sums of money despite what the farmers requested.

Grants to fishers

The audit found that the circumstances under which local fisherfolk received grants were similarly questionable.

BVI fishing laws only permit commercial fishing and mandate that only licensed BVIslanders and Belongers can fish in the territory’s waters. Persons who fish local waters without a license are liable to strict penalties.

Against this backdrop, the Auditor General found that more than half of the total fishers that received grants were not registered in the government’s Conservation & Fisheries Database.

In fact, the Premier’s Office reportedly paid more money to unlicensed fishers than licensed ones.

The audit found that $983,000+ went to licensed persons whereas $1,235,00, went to unlicensed persons.

Fishers using same boat all granted $$ for ‘engine’

The audit further found that multiple members of the same fishing vessel received grants and no distinction was made between the owner of the vessel and the crew. 

The AG said that, in some cases, boat owners and the crew members made claims for the same vessel and each received payments. In one instance, the AG said three persons — a vessel owner and two crew members — applied separately for engines and material and all three were awarded grants. 

She said no vetting was done to assess the legitimacy of requests.

The report of the audit concluded that the Premier’s Office’s failure to adopt Cabinet procedures to implement and monitor the stimulus programme has resulted in the disbursement of a substantial amount of public funds with ineffective means of assessing how these payments applied.

Gratuitous payouts

The report also raised concern that the Premier’s Office was the only ministry involved in the agriculture/fisheries stimulus disbursements.

“The exclusion of the two key agencies — the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries & Department of Agriculture and Fisheries — from this process demonstrates an absence of interest of achieving any real outcome for payment which, for some, served as needed assistance to advance their commercial fishing and agricultural undertakings. But, for many, were simply gratuitous merit awards at the expense at the public.

Just last month — before the publicising of the Auditor General’s report on the stimulus programme — Premier Andrew Fahie said his government “can say beyond the shadow of a doubt that we have acted with integrity to help the people with all the grants and none of the money has hit anywhere around us.”

Internal Audit: Govt’s SME COVID grant initiative failed expectations

Follow BVI New’s coverage of the 2021 Commission of Inquiry on Instagram @BVINewsOnline #TrackingTransparency at www.bvinews.com.

 

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47 Comments

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  1. heckler says:

    Oh my god!

    Like 46
    • Tola says:

      Talking about mismanagement of Public Funds…. Now that’s what’s called MISMANAGEMENT. And he up and down talking Pisssss

  2. BVI Future says:

    Who still believes this COI investigation is about racism or the UK taking over? BV Islanders, it has to do with the rampant corruption in the BVI. As simple as that.

    Like 80
    Dislike 4
    • @ BVI Future says:

      Them who benefit and getting all the porridge definitely feel upset about the process. Them a**e need locking up

      Like 33
    • Care the says:

      THEY TALKING RUBISH MAYBE THEY PALMS WERE BEING GREASED TOO ANY BLIND MAN COULD SEE THIS HEIGHT OF CORRUPTION I DID NOT NOT GET NO STIMULOUS FROM NO WAY .IM STILL STRUGGLING BUT GOD NOT SLEEPING .ALL THAT WAS DONE IN DARK COMING TO LIGHT. GO COI .

      Like 28
    • @bvi future says:

      Theses people dont understand nothing no wonder the Government legislators did them so much things. Lordy. Its shameful to believe the Government is not co rupt. They steal they lie they robb the suffer clivil servants.. its shows all the money they claim the Government never had could of pay worker increments and back pay. Its use to make them selves richer. The saying 99 days for the theif only one day for the watchman. This is some serious stuff. The coi is not here to salve no one. Our fore fathers worked hard for us to have freedom and i know they are rolling in their graves cause each Government stole and keep stealing. Lord forgive us all.

      Like 17
    • jimmy jowe says:

      All I can think as this COI develops is: “We have had only “A**-Clowns” running this place.”

  3. @ D 3 STOOGES says:

    HERE IS SOMETHING CONSTRUCTIVE TO AIR YOUR MOUTHS ON FOR ONCE INSTEAD OF PROMOTING / RACISM / LETS HEAR YOU ALL CANARIES SING ON WHATS GOING ON THE COUNTRY , LIKE UP BALO / THE BARGES DRUGS / THE PERSONAL VENDETTA AGAINST VANTERPOOL AND ALL THE TAX PAYERS $$$$ THAT WAS THROWN AWAY BECAUSE IT DIDN’T COME OUT OF THEIR POCKETS . YOU ALL SHOULD BE MADE TO PAY IT BACK

    Like 25
    Dislike 1
  4. jerry says:

    I believe the Auditor General’s evidence is enough to call for the Pre..r’s resignation.

    Like 62
    Dislike 2
  5. Foy says:

    Foy your opportunity to leave the Territory and hide is slowly closing. P****n is quickly becoming a reality. Do not think puffing your chest and beating on it will gain you any support. The writing on the wall is clear. Only an i****ile would think otherwise.

    Like 27
    Dislike 1
  6. ohhhhhhhh says:

    Now let me see how this will be dealt with.

    lock their a**es up, all of them both spenders and payers.
    I

    If this careless act from BVI Government doesn’t show where the people are led, I don’t know what will, this government is a sad disgrace to the BVI soil.

    Like 20
  7. Not surprise says:

    Well… Expected from this ‘unconventional government’ … A set of bigoted, nepotistic and outright trifling individuals. This is what makes us worse than our enemies… We expect a snake to be a snake but not our own.. Therefore we are our own worst enemy… Its time. Can’t have our own doing this to us.

    Like 23
  8. Ta Ta says:

    All this is what Gus was seeing. Give a dog a long rope and he will hang himself.

    Like 29
    • The light is shining says:

      Exaty, that’s why they hated Gus so much. He cared more about us than they ever will. Bunch of jokers..

    • J says:

      Several governors have been seeing this over the years. The previous governor saw the need with the previous government as well. This is just icing on the cake.

  9. 2 Words says:

    Vote Buying!

    Like 17
  10. Hello says:

    COI – we need the report concerning our SOCIAL SECURITY monies tooooooooo …

    Look SHITE in the BWeeeeI

    Like 26
    • Deh Watcha says:

      Social Security has a lot to answer to in this whole thing.

      They need to come to the people and explain this whole ‘qualifying’ scale that they used.

  11. lol says:

    anywhere else this would have caused the resignation of the premier, it is the only decent thing to do. Dare he come on spouting religion again. Shameful

    Like 29
    Dislike 1
  12. SMH says:

    I smell a Dissolution of Council. There is no way the Territory can move forward with this Level of Corruption. This is disgraceful and mind boggling. Lord, be Our Guide.

    Like 28
  13. Big AL says:

    Only those who are getting their palms darbed thinks that the COI is about racism or the UK taking over. They should be ashamed of themselves.

    Like 25
    Dislike 2
  14. :) says:

    D**n Premier ayo make me shame! I hope is fool ayo get fool because this ain’t looking good.

    Like 15
    Dislike 1
  15. Tell the Politicians pay our treasury back says:

    When it comes to xpats, they do all their due deligence, check trade dept, check NHI, check Social Security to make sure these things are up to date…So the know the procedure…This is a crime. An African parliamentarian got 18 month in Proson on Monday for far less than whats going on here….

    Like 11
    Dislike 1
  16. Seeing things clearly says:

    Theses people dont understand nothing no wonder the Government legislators did them so much things. Lordy. Its shameful to believe the Government is not co rupt. They steal they lie they robb the suffer clivil servants.. its shows all the money they claim the Government never had could of pay worker increments and back pay. Its use to make them selves richer. The saying 99 days for the theif only one day for the watchman. This is some serious stuff. The coi is not here to salve no one. Our fore fathers worked hard for us to have freedom and i know they are rolling in their graves cause each Government stole and keep stealing. Lord forgive us all.
    Pay the port staff their money. Shameful men. Shameful.

  17. Gangster says:

    The Premier is a Gangster!!!

    Like 17
  18. Election says:

    We need a election now, shut down everything until we vote out these clowns! Rather a yard chicken be Premíer than Andy right now.

    Like 17
    Dislike 4
  19. Dishonourable says:

    Reverse Robinhood.

    A phrase he loved to use in the House.

  20. BVI Future says:

    @ Hello. Social Security pension is long gone. I am sorry for those people who are close to retirement. There is no money there. From all these articles, the BVI does not have money in reserve for an emergency. The Country was robbed blinded- no decent public schools, open sewerage, opened burn garbage, over budget in double digit in millions of dollars for a hospital (yet locals travel to USVI or Puerto Rico for medical care), lawsuits for the airport expansion, $5 million to Silk Law to defend the ministers, covid-19, Hurricane Irma, COI, negative tourism, and the list goes on.

    Like 18
  21. OMG says:

    Lock them up!

    Like 11
  22. X X X X X says:

    A VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE FOR THE ( H o A ) WE THE VOTERS CALL FOR IT NOW.

    Like 20
  23. Outsider belonger says:

    Majority of the politicians, civil service managers and contractors operated with such malace and careless disregard for so long that it became the norm. In reality or maybe in defense of their stupidity, I beleive it started out innocently as common practice of genuine care for the people when the country was under developed with a very small econony and population. The country’s population and econony grew exponentially, and the policitical officials instead of implementing controls and moving business practices into the 21st century, used this as an opportunity to benefit themselves and a small circle of family and friends. At some point you have to pay the piper! Folks just got selfish and greedy and created a society of haves and have nots.

  24. J. Smith says:

    I’m going to give back the $26,000 I received. I honestly wasn’t a fisherman. Will be returning what I received to the government. Feeling so ashame. Please give the cash I’m returning to the people who really need it. Others please do the same for the betterment of our country. Mr Fahie although I voted for you. Please step down immediately. Thanks.

    • @j. Smith says:

      You better off taking that money and finding people in need yourself. You can help 26 families with $1000 each. As a single mother I know that would help a lot.

      Only God knows what Govt would do with the money if they got it back.

    • @fake J.Smith says:

      You are sick and malicious. You are lying because how can you get considered if you didn’t apply. Logically all of what you wrote is fabricated down to your user name.

  25. yes Sonia! says:

    Thanks for your honesty Sonia Webster.. please run for election ….

  26. Ha says:

    Look bad mind mehson.

    If three fishermen request money a engine maybe they want to captain their own boat not to mention one boat uses more than one engine when one gives out what will you do.

    You all don’t think of this you rush along crying and fail to realize when this initiative came about we were at the start of COVID.

    Back then you all were stocking up on toilet paper!! Meanwhile our representatives are thinking what if other nations begin hoarding food.

    (Only then when persons start starving or not able to afford imported food will the regular folk will call for support our food production without care of how large the operation)

    Not to mention many other nations had various stimulus initiatives.

    Over inflated she says but fact is we didn’t know how long Covid would last that was fact.

    What did you want them to do give the farmers & fishermen one thousand dollars and call it a day????

    This woman is a VIP hater you can frame it how you want when you revisit the events of last year the facts become clear.

    That would have been utter B-S and you people would say look how corrupt they are for being cheap with the government money.

    Next do you all realize a large portion government’s revenue comes from financial services thus it is an influx of foreign money? Social security has money from foreigners that work and leave early.

    If all this money is the public own let me know where I can withdraw my share when I move or next time they look to buy a plane please and thank you.

    Like 1
    Dislike 8
    • Highway Robbery says:

      The last time I checked, persons can apply to anyone of the banks for a loan. Why must the government buy them engines?

  27. rastarite says:

    Resign!!! No confidence, no confidence! The premier and the government OUT NOW!!!

  28. Westman says:

    best show on youtube

  29. BuzzBvi says:

    You’re all wrong the UN says VI should be independent. Oh s**t!!

  30. Pirates says:

    Lets hope our laws treat this conduct as a crime and they can be punished with fines and jail

  31. BVI Civil servant says:

    I not voting again, I’m discouraged from the dishonesty, worthlessness and corruption from these parties. Let England have them place, I’ll take my chances there!

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