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

The sitting government’s 2020 ‘stimulus grant’ programme to assist small, medium and micro enterprises (SMEs) that were negatively impacted by the health pandemic, was improperly regulated and failed to fulfil most of its expectations.

This is according to the details of a report revealed during Wednesday’s hearing of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) where the government’s Internal Auditor, Dorea Corea shared her findings.

According to the internal audit report, the execution of the SME assistance grant programme exposed significant structural and operational deficiencies within the BVI government.

The report said the programme focused on ‘accommodating businesses’ rather than executing a process that would optimise the allocation of grants fairly and transparently to SMEs that proved they were negatively impacted by COVID-19.

It was also found that the programme was stripped of all basic controls and criteria for determining eligibility, approval and accountability.

Initially, the audit found, there was a plan for each business to fill out a form to state how they were going to utilise the stimulus funds they received. But this was never implemented.

No financial information submitted to access grants

The SME assistance grant programme began with an extensive application, eligibility and approval criteria designed to assess each business’ operational position and compliance with various statutory requirements.

However, the audit found that due to time constraints and the unavailability of requisite data, the majority of these criteria were eliminated from the final execution of the programme in order to facilitate greater participation of businesses.

According to the audit, the programme’s review process was rudimentary, flawed, and not evidence-based in its assessment of applications.

Persons were selected for grants based on two factors; an approved trade license and the reported profit-and-loss factor as reported by the business owner.

And in most cases, the audit found that no financial information was collected or reviewed to confirm whether the applicants’ claims were true. A majority of the applicants, it said, did not actually maintain any financial information that could be submitted.

Poor criteria used to assess applications

Ultimately, the only eligibility criteria utilised was the business’ trade license and the business employing fewer than 20 employees.

The reclassified criteria, the report found, created inequity in the process because of the sizes of the various businesses.

As a result of the approach adopted, funding was awarded to businesses such as DJs, entertainers, and vehicle rental companies that would yield little economic benefit in the current environment.

Essentially, it was not being used as an economic stimulus, but rather as social support for businesses.

The report also found that the individual needs of each business were not considered. And as such, all businesses within the programme were treated as having equal financial needs.

An example given in the report showed that a micro business with one employee, which suffered a loss of $1,000 received the same amount as a medium business with six employees, and a loss of $10,000.

Furthermore, even though a cap of $15,000 was implemented, a lack of transparency in disclosing how businesses were able to receive funds meant businesses in some instances received more than this amount.

Based on the manner in which the applications were reviewed and assessed, effective controls were not put in place to ensure this cap was not breached.

The internal audit also reported that information and assistance were not forthcoming from the Premier’s Office, which administered the programme. The Office of the Auditor General also reported having this problem.

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

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15 Comments

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  1. Rubber Duck says:

    And these reports are made by honest Virgin Islanders, not Brits, not white racists.

    The people of the Virgin Islands are being robbed.

    We need change now.

    Like 52
    Dislike 1
    • BuzzBvi says:

      We do need change, but not change back to NDP. Something dramatic needs to differ in the people who are put forward to be voted into the HOA. It is clear there are very few who are currently at the top of VI politics and in control and on the media that should be anywhere the power positions in the VI.

  2. No data says:

    How can such conclusions be reached when no data was supplied for analysis? Everybody trying to impress the wh*te m*n. Trying to look like hero.

    Like 1
    Dislike 43
    • Hmmmmm says:

      The report was done before the COI arrived, no?

      “ According to the internal audit report, the execution of the SME assistance grant programme exposed significant structural and operational deficiencies within the BVI government.”

      Additionally, some evidence was available for the conclusions drawn in the report, no?

      Wicked VI people being exposed and you upset, ??

      It was about time such corruption be exposed, no?

      I am glad for the COI. I wonder if their work extends to the funds used out of our social security pension that were used to ‘stimulate’ the economy.

      Like 29
      Dislike 1
    • @No Data says:

      The data available would be the cheques that were cut to the businesses, that’s the point. They would hvae some sort of application on file and then a payment made but the system did not function in the way it should have in terms of validating businesses’ true financial needs.

    • Big AL says:

      @ No Data
      Did you go to school? You speak as someone who didn’t. You don’t have to reply. Smfh.

  3. 2030 says:

    Guess what else? There are some people who call themselves Christians are the biggest liars and thieves.

    I am aware of some of those so called Christians who lied and deceived others, who knew they could afford to help themselves but put aside their funds and used the funds of others who wanted to help or assist those without funds. So, in effect these so called Christians stole from those who assisted as well as those who truly needed the assistance.

    I am also aware of those who deceived others causing them to act inappropriately and unknown to the deceived, the deceived blame themselves.

    But, there is a God and these kinds will definitely pay.

  4. MK says:

    What more we have to hear to know that with the past and present governments that there was and is no transparency or accountability. I understand that’s what the COI was looking for, I am sure the COI has more than enough to turn this over to the Govenor, but it would be nice to hear it all.

    Like 17
    Dislike 1
  5. KLM says:

    @No data, You sound DUM

    Like 4
    Dislike 2
  6. It was fair says:

    The money was allocated before the businesses applied.

    The money was given to businesses with trade licenses.

    6.5 million was allocated. About 1100 businesses applied.

    They split it evenly.

    consider the months of Covid procedures, and lockdowns before casting judgement.

    How much longer or how unproductive would it have been after months of waiting to then hold up the process with nitpicking around in the financial status of 1100 businesses who were undoubtedly affected by the pandemic.

    Everything doesn’t have to be a controversy.

    Nothing will be perfect the first time but It’s as if people can’t stand to watch others in the community benefit but they rush to watch see suffering.

    If Rome is burning eventually that fire will burn you all too. Put out the fires of hardship and stop the crab in a bucket mentality.

    Like 2
    Dislike 21
  7. WEW says:

    Easy… what the didn’t steal they gave to their relatives & friends

    Like 14
  8. Secret Bear says:

    If they wanted to just cut a cheque to everybody, regardless of financial status, they should have just done that, the way the US did.

    Like 11
  9. Charnele says:

    Can the COI investigate the Tortola Credit Union that is holding members money since 2014 and don’t want to give it to them. Making excuses after excuses and blaming the National Bank of the Virgin Islands for not releasing the money to them. The TCU Board are holding members money hostage which leaves me to wonder if they have stolen the members money. The members have tried various means of getting help but to no avail. Can someone help us please!!

  10. Still waiting says:

    Plus some of us who were awarded one still don’t have the cash in our account 10 months later…. The Premiers Office has some major issues in it. Not sure if they are operating ones or leadership ones but something is very wrong.

  11. Mad Max says:

    I’d love to see the beneficiary of each of these grants. From SME to fishing to agriculture, I bet there are people who took from each.

    Like 10

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