By Davion Smith, BVI News Staff
The Virgin Islands Neighbourhood Partnership Project (VINPP) designed and introduced by former Education Minister Andrew Fahie back in 2008 yielded virtually no results, despite his ministry paying more than half-million in fees to consultancy firm Claude Ottley Consulting Limited over the course of several months.
This was the conclusion of an official report that has been leaked to local media after years of being withheld from the public. The report also cited a number of “questionable” expenses paid under the project.
The report — which bore the official seal of the Office of the Auditor General but did not have a date — said the consultancy firm was contracted to coordinate and mobilize churches, schools, other organisations and community groups (participating centres) to provide assistance and guidance to some of the most fragile and volatile youths across the British Virgin Islands.
Lacking and non-existent
But at the end of the programme which ran from 2009 to 2010 under a Virgin Islands Party administration, the ministry paid out a total of $571,800 over several instalments without any real work being done.
The report said: “The information received [while conducting the audit] indicates that performance was either non-existent or lacking in a number of areas stipulated under the contract”.
Although the consultancy firm was paid to coordinate the programme on Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Anegada, the report said the programme was executed in limited sessions on Tortola. Participating centres on Virgin Gorda said representatives of Claude Ottley Consulting — which was supposed to coordinate the programme — only visited their location once.
“The visit spurned some displeasure with the church leaders because it was felt that the consultant and VINPP had not delivered on their promises and were now seeking to take credit for the work that had been done,” the report said.
It continued: “There is no evidence that the programme commenced on Anegada.”
According to the report, a sub-contract totalling $19,000 was issued to a company called Godfolks Media Group to assist with coordination on the three aforesaid islands. The monies were paid in instalments over several months to that company, the report said.
“Although regular payments were made for field coordination, the information received indicate that there was insufficient follow-up with the few participating centres,” the report further said.
Misleading money management?
The programme also was to provide participating churches and centres with a monetary grant of $5,000 to help “defray costs and to ensure that they were properly equipped to carry out the programme”. However, the report said the programme “overstated” the grants that were offered.
“The grant that was promised to them fell short of $4,000,” the report said. The report concluded that, overall, the grants that programme coordinators claimed was offered to participating centres were overstated by a commanding $27,000.
But that figure is not the only financial discrepancies the Auditor General noted. Programme coordinators said part of their expenses in executing the programme included travel/airfare and car rentals costs that totalled $19,062.60.
The report, however, said: “There was no information or reports with respect to the extensive travel undertaken on how this related to the development of the programme.”
Thousands spent on non-existent computers
The programme and its coordinators had also claimed that $34,000 was spent on purchasing computer supplies for 17 of the participating centres. But, the audit reveals that there is “no evidence that the allocated computers were purchased and supplied to the participating centres … The New Life Baptist Centre (one of the participating churches) did report receiving two refurbished computers; one of which had stopped working”.
These and other expenses which the Auditor General described as “questionable” were listed in the report. When contacted about the 17-page document on Monday, Auditor General Sonia Webster said the report BVI News described to her was drafted several years ago and was not done for public consumption. She declined to comment further.
Meanwhile, news of this report on the Andrew Fahie-led programme comes on the heels of his party accusing incumbent Education Minister Myron Walwyn of financial mismanagement in relation to the controversial Elmore Stoutt High School perimeter wall project.
A similar audit on the wall project has been handed over to police to ascertain whether wrongdoing was at play in that Walwyn-led project.