Premier Andrew Fahie has rushed to the defence of Fourth District Representative Mark Vanterpool, saying the legislator’s supermarket isn’t the only one that got business from the government during the territory-wide COVID-19 shutdown earlier this year.
Vanterpool’s supermarket, OneMart Superstore in Purcell Estate, has been contracted by the Ministry of Health & Social Development to provide $869,773.34 worth of food packages and sanitary supplies to assist the Virgin Islands population during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking in the House Of Assembly on September 22, Premier Fahie said he is aware that some members of the public believe Vanterpool’s supermarket was contracted because of nepotism.
But he said those persons should note that other supermarket owners got similar and possibly bigger contracts to that of Vanterpool.
“What’s amazing is that there are other supermarkets that made the same amount but because they are not in politics, they don’t have to come here to publicly declare a thing. And they gone with the money sailing. We hope they are taking care of their employees like what he [Vanterpool] doing with his. Because they made the money,” the Premier stated.
Fahie said it isn’t illegal for elected officials to do business with the government as long as they declare these conflicts of interest to the House of Assembly.
In Vanterpool’s case, the Premier said the government has been doing business with OneMart long before Vanterpool became an elected representative. He also said Vanterpool donated a lot of supplies to residents outside of what the government contracted his company to provide during the shutdown.
Not all elected reps are corrupt
Addressing critics, Premier Fahie said there are many who believe the elected members are corrupt and acquire wealth once they enter representational politics.
“There’s a misconception in the public that ‘once you enter politics and you land and you’re rich and you have no need for anything else. And if you’re not rich your’e, going to get rich’ because they perceive some of us as thieves,” Premier Fahie said, as he stressed that many elected representatives have left the House of Assembly with “clean hands”.
According to the BVI constitution, an elected member of the House of Assembly shall vacate his or her seat if that member is a director or manager of a company that is contracted to do business with the government.
However, the constitution also states that the House of Assembly may allow this member to remain in his seat if such contracts are disclosed to the House within a reasonable time.
The House of Assembly yesterday voted unanimously for Vanterpool to remain in his seat as representative of the Fourth District.