Opposition Leader Marlon Penn is claiming that the government presently owes small businesses and contractors in the territory hundreds of thousands of dollars for work executed.
Penn levelled those claims during a recent Opposition media conference where he expressed concerns regarding the territory’s financial standings.
He, therefore, renewed calls for government to reveal the territory’s current financial position as he believes it has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The government right now, as we see it and as I continue to speak with the private sector and the business sector, it is running the government’s operations on the backs of the small businesses of this territory,” he said.
“There are small businesses in this territory that are owed in excess of $500,000 and along those lines from the government of this territory but yet they’ve been asked to come up and be up-to-date with their finances. They owe their creditors, their staff that have to be paid and it is a continuous issue with the government owing the contractors in the territory who provide goods and services to the government of the Virgin Islands,” he added.
Premier calls statements irresponsible
BVI News reached out to Premier Andrew Fahie to verify whether Penn’s claims are factual.
In inviting the premier to comment, one of the questions asked was, “does your government presently owe contractors and small-business owners for work previously executed?”
Premier Fahie briefly responded: “Let the Opposition provide you with the proof for their irresponsible statements.”
I stand by my statements
BVI News then followed up with an interview with Penn, who he reaffirmed his stance, specifically pointing to one example in which the business owner in question confirmed on Tuesday that he still was not paid by the government.
Penn said: “I called the Ministry of Finance and the contractor is a security contractor who has done work during the pandemic and who is owed money on securing the school and also for securing persons during the pandemic. The amounts are close to over $600,000 the last time the contractor spoke to me, calling me asking for support to get his funding to him.”
Efforts made to get answers in the HOA
The Opposition legislator further said he and other Opposition members have been asking government questions in the House of Assembly (HOA) to get clarity on the government’s spending.
“We have asked questions in the House of Assembly concerning the expenditure as it relates to COVID-19 spending and we learned last night close to some $25 million in COVID-19 spending. It is something that we need to have a better understanding of,” Penn stated.
He added: “I asked questions in the House specifically on payables and companies who are owed by government. As you know, the House was prorogued after those questions hit the order paper. We need to have answers to those questions.”
Penn said the answers to those questions may not come in 2020 as the upcoming sessions of the HOA will include the Speech from the Throne on Thursday, the Budget Address on November 14, then subsequent Standing Finance Committee meetings.
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