BVI News

Missing files, deception: BVIAA took runway development $$ to pay salaries

Premier Andrew Fahie in the House of Assembly on Tuesday.

By Esther Durand, BVI News Staff

The newly-installed BVI Airport Authority (BVIAA) board has unearthed that some $5 million intended to develop the runway at the TB Lettsome International Airport was instead spent on paying salaries and operational costs.

Describing the situation as ‘beyond catastrophic’, Premier Andrew Fahie told the House of Assembly on Tuesday that the situation requires “critically urgent interventions to prevent the collapse of our territory’s key economic drivers”.

“In the one month that the new board of the BVIAA has been in place, they have uncovered a rabbit hole of mismanagement, deception, profligacy and quite possibly misappropriation of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money. I call it a ‘rabbit hole’ because it just keeps getting deeper and deeper; twisting and turning in unexpected and startling ways as if it were some kind of wonderland,” Premier Fahie said.

No financial audit for years, probe to be launched

Fahie said it was even more concerning to discover the lack of audited financial statements since 2014.

“It is required that financials be submitted to the central government six months after the end of the previous financial year,” he argued.

The Premier further said there will be a forensic audit conducted at the BVIAA “to examine the pattern of high spending with lack of approval and absence of accountability”.

“That investigation will commence in two weeks and should tell our citizens where their money has gone — and in the event any malfeasance is found — who is responsible, and how they should be dealt with,” he added

Cash-flow disaster

Premier Fahie said the BVIAA is facing a serious ‘cash flow problem’ and roughly $1 million is owed in outstanding bills.

“How a board, management and a government could have allowed these things to happen with such a critical piece of our transportation network is beyond understanding. Were they in the dark? Did they know and bury their heads in the sand? Or did they know and were helpless?” Fahie asked.

Loans

Meanwhile, Premier Fahie informed that in 2017 before the hurricanes, a $5 million loan was granted by the former NDP administration to rehabilitate the runway at the Beef Island-based airport.

“This money was not spent on resurfacing the runway but on salaries and operational expenses. I am advised that the Authority did not write to the government to notify the government that the funds were not used for the intended purpose, and to explain how, where and why the money had been redirected as is required,” Fahie said.

“In the meantime, the runway continued deteriorating,” he added.

Fahie, who is also Minister of Finance, noted that the BVIAA was placed on notice by Air Safety Support International some time last year. The notice was in relation to friction on the runway which had dropped below acceptable levels.

“I am advised that the BVIAA was threatened with restrictions that would have affected the usable length of the runway, and this would have prevented some of the main airlines that operate at the airport from landing and taking off. Airlift to the BVI would have been shut down,” the Premier disclosed.

He said this forced the BVIAA to address the problem and the government had to again channel a second loan to the Board in the sum of $5.5 million. That last loan was finally used for works that were completed in June, he further said.

Old BVIAA board tried deceive management

Fahie said when the BVIAA’s management met with the former Board, they wanted to deceive them.

“Attempts were made to pull the wool over their eyes and convince the [new] Board that these two sums — $5 million and $5.5 million – were not loans but grants. This attempt to mislead the new Board was thwarted by the presence of the Financial Secretary who sits as an ex-officio member of the Board, and who was able to confirm that the Authority is obligated to repay these sums. Thank God for checks and balances,” Fahie stated.

In the meantime, Fahie said ‘key pieces of documentation cannot be found’ relating to the first loan of $5 million.

The Premier said the new Board is now looking at reorganising and restructuring the Authority and its operations. It is also looking to trim some of the excesses.

Copyright 2019 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

44 Comments

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  1. vip heckler says:

    Which is worst, paying the staff from airport authority money or putting some one in charge who defrauded the said board ?

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    • Otto says:

      The airport is a crime scene! What about the missing $7.2million / BVI Airlines. We the people deserve to know where that money went and who, if anyone, received kickbacks or payola.

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      • Turtle Dove says:

        Someone needs to go to jail regarding this matter. We need some leadership applied to this. Mr Gov was supposedly reviewing this but we haven’t heard a thing from his office. Wasn’t the AG investigating this as well? The airport has been used as a launchpad for suspicious behavior. A. The millions spent on evaluating plans to extend the runway. B. The millions lost in investing in an airline that didn’t need longer runways. C. The millions misdirected from repairs to salaries. Who received the additional$. Was this for Orlando’s private custom’s services for private jets?

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      • Abraham says:

        We need a criminal investigation here. This is an era of transparency. Our new leaders need to demonstrate righteousness.

      • Concerned says:

        The Disappearance of million tax payers money shroud be probed and the names of culprits involved in the deal should be brought to book.They should be made to pay back the money and face other punishments according to law [due process].The wicked culprits are defrauding the government at expense of the taxpayers and adding more hardship to the public by imposing more taxes in different ways. Nemesis will catch with them.

  2. Looking On says:

    “Fahie said it was even more concerning to discover the lack of audited financial statements since 2014. “It is required that financials be submitted to the central government six months after the end of the previous financial year,” he argued.”

    YOU are in charge now. Get them done by the end of 2019. February 2020, the latest!

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  3. mark my words says:

    While you’re at it let us go back as far as 2003 and examine your financial track record up until now

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  4. Okay Then says:

    “The Premier said the new Board is now looking at reorganising and restructuring the Authority and its operations. It is also looking to trim some of the excesses.”

    EASIER said than done. Let’s see the new board and new government make the changes needed. Report back to us in no later than 9 months time giving the public an update and no more issues/problems WITHOUT solutions, please! We await an update 31 March 2020.

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  5. Well says:

    This board cannot have any credibility as long as he is at the head

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  6. Solutions says:

    1. Bring in a white man, and shake up the acting locals up there. Start training people to follow in these roles when time come… as you can see they don’t have the qualified man power and they always leave the younger people behind.
    2. Force intercaribbean to pay all their fees, heard so many things they got away with from the old Director.
    3. Get raid of the security manager; his management team, trainers and the ID lady who just prints one ID a day and gets a full salary.
    4. Out source Maintenance and Custodian
    5. Put ATC and Fire under Govt

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    • hmm says:

      by ‘white man’ I am guessing that you simply mean a qualified person for the role, not necessarily with the skin tone labelled as a requirement..?

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    • Nonsense says:

      The COP, DPP we already have the whiteman and what is your point.

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    • Just saying says:

      There is a whole bunch who are not qualified and don’t know their a$$@$ from their elbow, but because of favours are bumping their way along.

  7. Fishy says:

    Does this looks like the reason for the director’s retirement?

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    • Moo dem says:

      Hell yes! De say he run cause he know the $h!t was going on. He could not take the pressure coming down the pipe. Now his ni@ec needs to go. Ah hear she doing all kind of wrong sided things. Dem say she is who was advising him all along, so you know. Making a bunch of foolish decisions and making pure mischief.

  8. Reply says:

    I am getting tired of the accusations of wrong doings by this government relative to the last.

    It serves no purpose other than to distract from the task ahead, and only serves to lay the foundation that if and when this current government fails to deliver on their promises, they lay the blame at the feet of the previous government.

    Well,that is not going to work. The ball is in your court Mr. Premier, and the public expects you to deliver on your campaign promises.

    May I remind you that the clock is still ticking on those 1000 jobs you promised among other things.

    I think this government should get on with the task of governing and stop pointing fingers backwards. You wanted the job, and you got it. Now, get on with it. The election is over.

    No government comes into power and finds everything in order and a bed of roses. It’s time to stop the blame game and get on with governing.

    If this government fails to deliver on its campaign promises, they cannot blame the previous government for its failures.

    The NDP is no longer running the government or in power. The ball is in your court now Mr. Premier. Stop the blame game.

    Short of getting on with it is an indication to me that you may not be ready to handle the job you sought. Prove your mettle, and start delivering.

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    • :) says:

      When Dr. Smith was elected in 2011 the first thing he said was VIP left the country broke. He let everyone know the current status quo. Fahie should advise the people of the wrong doing because if he doesn’t and we find out later then people will speculate and think that the current government was the problem or at fault. If NDP kept their promise from 2011 about consumer protection maybe Fahie could have been busy working on the 1000 jobs in 1000 days instead of trying to complete a long overdue job that was assigned to NDP over 8 years ago. The ball is in VIP’s court but that doesn’t mean that he should see and shutup.

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      • Reply says:

        If the NDP did what you allege, let me say two wrongs does not make a right, but that’s politics.

        It is in my opinion immature, non-productive, and largely meaningless in the larger scheme of things to be spending all this time trying to uncover or pointing out what they previous government did or did not do right. Again, the election is over.

        Leveling accusations are all good and well on the campaign trail when votes are are being sought, but once the election is over, in my view it’s time to get on with governing. They already made their case and won.

        The country still has a lot of recovery left after the hurricanes of 2017, and the stagnant economy needs their attention among other matters. That’s where their focus should be, not wasting time on the past government’s actions.

        The current government has a lot of work to do. In my opinion they are spending too much time trying to prove the NDP was bad or did bad things.

        The election is over. The VIP won. They should move on and govern and try to fulfill as many of the promises they made that got them elected.

        Pointing out or trying to show over and over again that the NDP did this or that is child’s play after they have won the election. It will get the VIP no further along in achieving their goals. It’s a waste of time, and does not benefit the country any.

        Again, no incoming government meets a perfect house in order. Government are elected to deal with what they find, and hopefully improve upon what they find. Spending all this time trying to prove how bad the previous government was after winning the election will prove useless.

        When the next election is called, the public is not going to be holding the NDP accountable for the VIP failures. They will be holding the VIP accountable for their own failures.

        The public is going to judge the VIP on what they have or have not done.

        If the VIP folks are wise, they would get off this blame game mission, and start governing. They were elected in part because the electorate was unhappy with the previous government. No need to rehash the past. There is nothing to prove anymore. They need to move on.

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    • hmm says:

      U so right. After the NDP done F up the country u have a right to put the onus on the current govt. Im so ashamed of the NDP. When hey split party that was it for me. I stuck with Myron and the rest but as u see, we didnt make it.
      SO, do th math, over 11 mil from the airpot, almost 8 mil for 2 planes we cant find, 8 mil taken from east sewerage project and almost 50 from the airport.
      Now Mark with he p**s but bless and thank family accusing Fahie of corruption. We dont want to hear no dead horse getting licks. Answer the b****y questions, we dont want to hear no c**p about value for money. So what happened to the white guys who was supposed to report on the pier park? Wasnt he the one that said the park couldve been twice the size for the amount of money spent? So his papers was in EC or something? MArk, ayuh think we schupid nuh. No sir, you guh siddun wid that c**p.

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    • Stop distracting says:

      To me this sounds like the EX top dog speaking to take the attention off him

  9. Same Ole says:

    As usual, anything goes in the BVI. Until WE, gone people get up, speak out, stand up for our rights and hold people accountable for their actions, nothing will change.

    We have all sat down like stool pigeons for far too long and let these politicians shove drivel down our throats. We have watched too many of them rape the country and we have done absolutely nothing about it. We have watched too many statutory bodies being run like gravy trains for too many ‘yes men’ and sat back and done nothing. We have been taken for moo-moos for far too long now.

    Speak out for your rights, my people! Time is quickly passing by!! What kind of legacy are you leaving for your children and their children? That we were led like sheep to the slaughter while we were taken advantage of? It is not business as usual. Make those politrickians accountable. Send offenders off to jail. Clean up our Territory and let’s stop being the laughing stock of the world.

    We already have the laws on our books. Let’s impose them. Let’s clean up that circus once and for all and make thar poppy show house an honourable house. It’s high time we demand changes. And while we are at it, ir is about time we seriously look at the pile of relatives and cronies on those new boards. Nuff said.

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    • Observant says:

      Solutions, I agree with you totally. There are people in the bviaa security arm who basically have the best job ever. Imagine you have a person monitoring cameras from 8am – 4pm alone. You have someone making identification cards whole day 8am – 4pm wow,trainers who get paid whether they train anyone or not for months. But , the officers have to pass an exam every year or else they are threatened with termination. Why don’t these people who basically get paid for doing nothing have to pass an exam to keep their jobs. You have a security manager that doesn’t know what the h**l he’s doing, what’s really going on?

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  10. Goodsense says:

    So if the financial secretary thwarted the deception where was he all the time if he sits as an ex-oficio member? wasn’t he present at the other board meetings?

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  11. Windy says:

    So who’s going to jail ?

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  12. My two cents. says:

    This place is like Sodom and Gomorrah. Can’t we find 10 people who would work for an honest dollar instead of raping the country!!! They are some heartless people! Walking around the place after buikding big houses with taxpayers money!!

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  13. Observant says:

    They need to stop hiring because of last name and hire because of the ability to actually do the job. What do you expect?

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    • Smh says:

      This has nothing to do with the story. I guess you are salty because you can’t find a job. Also, probably not from the BVI.

  14. Observant says:

    Stop hiring to secure votes and start hiring because of competency

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  15. Bush Engineer says:

    The policy maker (BVIAA), administrators, and ministry are all responsible for this SNAFU ( situation normal all f….k up). The BVIAA should have set effective policies and lead administrators to ensure policies were being effectively executed and ministry should provided effective oversight. The ministry and board may have failed to ensure that authorized and appropriated funds ($5M) were used for the intended purpose; appropriated funds used for salaries and operations vice construction and maintenance.

    Airport runway pavement is designed for a set number of landings and has a definite lifecycle. Moreover, to attain the design life, preventative maintenance needs to occur at specific timelines, ie, seal coat, overlay…..etc. To protect the aircraft, crew, pilot, workers, public……etc safety, preventative maintenance, repair, construction………..etc must occur like clock work. It is reckless, irresponsible………. etc to ignore/delay planned maintenance work. Safety matters. Safety is job one. No job is well done if it is done safely.

    On another note, the BVI is too small to have as many statutory bodies as it has. Most of these statutory bodies need to be departments directly under a minister. Much larger locales have few, if any, statutory bodies. As departments, they can still have boards. By the way, serving on boards should be voluntary and without compensation. Currently, boards are staffed on a quid pro quo basis , ie, something for something, ie, reward for a political party support.

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    • @Bush Engineer says:

      @Bush Engineer, “By the way, serving on boards should be voluntary and without compensation.” it is not going to happen in the BVI. You will quicker see pigs flying. Tortola residents just got talk, talk and are not going to sacrifice their time to make things better. They have a gift for gab. They are not going to volunteer time for free. We want things to happen but hope someone else do it.

      • Well sah says:

        School children say that not even the MD was serving for free. They say he was collecting for Board meetings although he was also collecting good salary for the times Boards meetings were convened. What a ting. As far as I know MDs don’t get paid to serve on Boards. Where else does this happen? Only at BVIAA?

  16. BVIPA NEXT says:

    Chickens coming to roost. Too much underhanded nastiness going on in the BVI.

  17. Papacita says:

    This isn’t hard to figure out. This was a deeper rabbit hole that was never intended to be uncovered but due to an unexpected change of government the cat was out the bag. The number one agenda from the NDP specifically Dr. Smith has always been the Expansion of the Airport. This has been in their manifesto from 2011 and although they said the territory was broke they have always pushed for the project even though this was not a priority in the views of the public.

    The Airport expansion was to be Dr. Smith’s pet project the same way that the Pier Park was to his brother in law. He admitted that the potential expansion may have been a reason why the BVI Airways deal failed and we lost $7.2 million as they couldn’t get investors that were willing to take a chance only for possible competition from more established and larger Airline operators.

    The paving of the runway was delayed to be a part of the $250 million airport expansion project which Dr. Smith hoped to have been able to start in 2018. In 2017 most of the back benchers were against going ahead with the expansion but Dr Smith still persisted.

    I think they were deliberately allowing the surface of the runway to become a hazard to the point where we would have no choice but to take urgent action and move the project forward without much push back from the public. Just mere weeks before elections they were rushing public meetings regarding the Airport project. The whole Airport saga need to be revisited to reveal all the skeletons in the closet.

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  18. Boo says:

    My my. Who is the Financial Controller at BVIAA?

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  19. Concerned says:

    The first mistake this government made in relation to the BVIAPA is appoint a Chair who served time in prison for abuse of office as a senior Government employee. There were other suitable choices.

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  20. OZYMANDIAS says:

    Right before this became public person decide to retire. WITH SAID PERSON CHILDREN PROPERLY EDUCATED WITH TAX PAYER MONEY NOT SAID PERSON SALARY EARNED. SAVE YOUR MONEY AND EDUCATE YOUR CHILDREN AT THE SAME TIME. BVI GOVERNMENT NATURE’S LITTLE SECRET.

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  21. TBS says:

    Wasn’t the present Premier a member of the Standing Finance Committee? It is well known that Government is/was cash strapped. In order for the airport to remain open, something had to give. Desperate times require desperate measures in order to keep things flowing!

    I blame all members of the past government and members of the Standing Finance Committee!

  22. Gordon says:

    It is of concern that these criminal acts are going on while more taxes are being imposed and collected from the public unjustly.Probe should be carried out and the names of the culprits are brought to book and made to face the wrath of law.These callous culprits should pay back the money and face other punishment according to law[due process] . What do we expect when no auditing has been done for years.God will save the BVI citizens from the wicked souls.

  23. jimmy smith says:

    I am here wondering when, those in power is going to call a spade a spade, the problems at the BVIAA can very be attributed to the same financial secretary that have the central government in a mess , in this case he former seventh district representative. The BVIAA as statutory board by law has one share holder, that person is the financial secretary. He was the person that read the minutes they were following his instructions. Yet he is rewarded and is now up by RDA with half of his staff from the ministry of finance. The man failed at his job but is given a pass, all the time and no one is calling him out.

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