Central government owes the BVI Electricity Corporation (BVIEC) more than $13 million, and Premier Dr D Orlando Smith said he is not sure when Government will pay up what it owes for electricity.
But he said the latest payment was made this month, adding that the government will negotiate a payment arrangement with the BVIEC.
“As of 31st March, 2017, the amount of arrears outstanding to the BVI Electricity Corporation by central government is $13,389,638.72,” he told the House of Assembly on April 20 while responding to questions from Opposition leader Andrew Fahie.
The premier further said: “Given the value of the arrears, it will take some time to bring the outstanding amount current. However, every effort is being made to reduce the balance. I can, in fact, report that a payment of $1.5 million was made on 12th April, 2017, and the outstanding balance will be managed according to payment arrangements that will be negotiated with the BVI Electricity Cooperation.”
Premier Smith said different factors contributed to the non-payment of the electricity bills over the years.
“The cause of the arrears is multi-fold. Each accounting officer within the government service is responsible for ensuring that all expenses incurred under their heads are properly managed. It is the responsibility of the ministries/departments to ensure that, once bills are received, they are processed in a timely manner as payment can only be made once these bills are processed. Unfortunately, this process has not been as timely as it should have been in some instances.”
“Additionally, if during the budgeting cycle funds allocated to the respective sub-heads are insufficient and savings cannot be realized from elsewhere, then it is likely that these departments would not have been in a position to make payment. Finally, the amount outstanding also includes amounts owed in relation to the supply of electricity to the various water plants across the territory,” added Premier Smith.
He told the House that a mechanism has been put in place to ensure utility bills are paid in a timely manner.
“After recognizing the challenges being faced with paying utility bills in a timely manner, a decision was taken by my government in September 2016 to centralize the payment and management of all utility bills – telephone, water and electricity. To facilitate this process, since January 1, 2017, the responsibility for payment of utility bills has been placed with the Telephone Services Management Unit.”
“It is hoped that, by centralizing these payments, the payment process would be carried out in a more timely manner, thus avoiding the difficulties that have been encountered over the last several years,” Premier Smith further said.