Premier Andrew Fahie has told the Commission of Inquiry (COI) that although the Neighbourhood Partnership Project (NPP) was under his Education Ministry at the time, it was run by former Premier, the late Ralph T. O’Neal.
The controversial project, executed between 2009-2010 by Claude Skelton Cline’s consultancy, was the subject of a scathing report by Auditor General, Sonia Webster, which showed that more than half-a-million dollars was spent with little to no value in return.
“I would state very clearly that the Premier [Ralph O’Neal] was the one — the then Premier — who was keeping a very keen eye on this project,” Premier Fahie told the Commission yesterday.
He continued: “I can’t remember whether it came under his budget or my budget in the ministry, but he was keeping a very keen eye on it and he had a right to because the environment was not good at that time with our young people with the number of fights and gangs that were happening so is not something that was being done in isolation and just being done willy nilly.”
Premier Fahie also told the Commission that any minister that served under Premier O’Neal, would readily say that O’Neal personally approved all projects and signed all contracts.
Fahie, through a written statement read aloud to the COI, said he received numerous accounts from persons about young people whose lives had been improved by the project.
Based on what Fahie said he recalls, the ill-fated project was more mired by politics than by performance.
Premier Fahie said he believed, and was also told by ministry officials at the time, that the project was yielding valuable benefits, yet he was ultimately forced to pull the plug on the project.
“My recollection is that it was the failure of Mr Skelton Cline’s consultancy to produce the full reports I requested over some months and not any substantive concerns about the benefit of the project that ultimately convinced me that I should speak to the Premier about curtailing it,” Fahie said.
He further told the COI that he could not recall ever having any discussion with Skelton Cline at the time and that all his involvement was primarily through interactions with ministry officials.
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