Minister with responsibility for ports Mark Vanterpool said the tender process, which promotes transparency and fairness in the award of public contracts, was not used in relation to legal services provided for the government’s Cruise Pier Development Project.
Law firm Harney Westwood and Reigels was paid just over $654,000 for the services.
It should be noted that, under the Public Finance Management Regulations, Cabinet is allowed to bypass the tender process, which is usually required for project valued at more than $100,000.
In the House of Assembly this week, June 13, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Fahie asked why Cabinet bypassed the tender process.
Vanterpool replied: “It is my understanding that the tender process was not used to obtain these services [provided by Harney Westwood and Reigels]. Instead, the services were obtained through direct negotiations.”
“It is my understanding that other firms were approached by the [government-owned] BVI Ports Authority to provide professional legal service linked to the cruise pier project. However, their costs proved prohibitive. And, therefore, after some negotiations, the firm of Harney Westwood and Reigels was chosen,” the minister further explained.
He said Harney Westwood and Reigels was the only law firm engaged by the BVI Ports Authority from the inception of the cruise pier project to date.
“I am also aware that, through the Ministry of Finance, legal advice and services linked to the cruise pier project were also sought and obtained from Baker Mackenzie – a UK legal firm,” added Vanterpool.
He further told the House that the legal fees have been paid.
“According to the records held by the BVI Ports Authority, one legal firm was engaged by the BVI Ports Authority, in the name of Harney Westwood and Reigels, to provide legal advice and/or services to the BVI Ports Authority and Tortola Pier Park Limited for the Cruise Pier Development Project, in the total amount of $654,535.12.”
“No variations were incurred during the provision of these services… According to records held by the BVI Ports Authority, there are no outstanding invoices or balances to be paid,” Vanterpool further said.