Premier Andrew Fahie has come out in staunch defence of his administration’s record of governance; amid the Auditor General’s (AG) damning revelations about the government’s COVID-19 stimulus programme for local fishers and farmers.
The findings from AG Sonia Webster’s audit of the programme detailed the government’s systematic failures to follow protocol and the Premier’s Office’s “deliberate attempts” at blocking her from accessing government files needed to conduct her investigations.
These were revealed when Webster appeared before the ongoing Commission of Inquiry this week. But while speaking on his party’s Let’s Talk radio programme last evening, Premier Fahie disputed several of the improper actions his office is accused of perpetrating.
And in complete contrast to the revelations that emerged from the Webster’s sworn evidence to the COI, Premier said he respects the AG’s work.
“I will say in terms of the Auditor General that your government respects the role of the audit department and the Auditor General’s Office, as we do for all the statutory offices,” the Premier said.
Reading from what appeared to be text on his phone, Premier Fahie further stated that the AG’s office is a very crucial component of good governance.
He argued, however, that audits only represent a “snapshot picture at a given point in time”. “Therefore, at a different point in time, the picture can change as the information changes.”
Be cautious of AG’s reports
Seemingly referring to the AG’s findings of his office’s distribution of stimulus funds, the Premier urged persons to be cautious when analysing the AG’s revelations given that all the data was not made available to her office at the time of the audit.
“The validity and accuracy of an audit report also depends on the data that is analysed to come to the findings and conclusion,” the Premier said. “If the information is incomplete, then it will not show the whole picture.”
He continued: “So, if all the data was not analysed or all of the data was not available to be analysed … then the conclusion of the report has to be approached with caution because the analysis is not based on all the data.”
Grant funds can be fully accounted
Turning his attention to claims from the AG that protocol was not followed regarding the government’s COVID-19 stimulus fund distribution, Premier Fahie stated repeatedly that he can assure the public that all funds and grants can, and have already been accounted for.
“All I can say at this time is that time will reveal the truth,” said Fahie who did not directly address the AG’s claims that his office deliberately blocked her from accessing the files to do conduct the very audit he’s now suggesting is inaccurate.
According to the Premier, the people of the BVI will be furnished with another side of the story and will then be able to determine what is the truth.
He without sin cast the first stone
Amid overwhelming public criticism of his administration following audits, the Andrew Fahie-led government has adopted the biblical adage, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.
The Premier said no one should be able to judge the BVI as if it should faultless.
He drew reference to a senior UK minister’s recent resignation on account of inappropriate conduct.
“Who is perfect to judge whom?” Premier Fahie asked. “We are prepared to defend our record … I will not go in any hole and hide,” he added,.
Health Minister, Carvin Malone meanwhile, described the COI as a 71-year audit of governance in the Virgin Islands.
He questioned the COI’s apparent central theme of “the public’s right to know”, claiming that every institution that the BVI has is being broken down.
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