BVI News

Premier’s Office deliberately attempts to block audit, COI told

Auditor General Sonia Webster.

Auditor General Sonia Webster has issued a damning audit report which outlined a plethora of infractions committed by the governing Andrew Fahie administration. It also details several areas where there had been outright attempts to block the audit exercise itself.

The audit report, which was brought to the public through the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Monday, was conducted to assess the government’s stimulus programme for farmers and fisherfolk. The programme launched last year as part of the government’s response to the economic fallout of COVID-19.

The Auditor General (AG) told the COI that even as she made efforts to conduct the audit, she encountered deliberate attempts at blocking her from accessing government files needed to carry out her duties.

Webster said that despite repeatedly sending requests to the Premier’s Office via email and telephone, her office was unable to obtain the relevant files and information about the COVID-19 stimulus grants.

She said her office was denied access to databases, documents, reports, and other information relevant to policy development and implementation programmes.

The refusal was reportedly in direct contravention of the BVI’s constitution and Audit Act — both of which provides for the Auditor General’s Office to have access to government documents and records. Under those laws, no public officer expending public funds has the authority to deny information requested for audit purposes.

Webster told the COI her office initially received no response from the Premier’s Office. And subsequent to that, they were told that information could not be sent because an internal audit team was reportedly performing a similar exercise.

She then reportedly told the Premier’s Office that her office was willing to share access to the databases that were not in use by the internal audit team. However, this proposal, too, was rebuffed.

“I believe there was a deliberate attempt to prevent this [Auditor General’s] office from getting the information in order to complete this exercise,” Webster said.

Webster further disclosed that another aspect of the COVID audit was the Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) COVID grants that was issued to local companies. 

Premier’s Office orders for AG to be blocked

“We were granted access to that database and then told that the ministry — the Premier’s Office — had instructed that that access be removed,” Webster said.

“So, from where we sit, there was a deliberate effort to prevent the office from getting, having access to the information.”

“I often have to say to individuals that we are not asking for your personal information, this is government spending, public spending. You do not have a right to withhold information where it respects government processes and government activities,” she added.

Absence of transparency

The AG labelled the behaviour emanating from the Premier’s Office as an absence of transparency because of the many attempts at obfuscation.

“Our job is actually to look at those documents that is our job,” Webster said. “Our job is accountability and transparency and reporting when there is no accountability or transparency. And in this case, there was absolutely the absence of transparency coming out of that ministry.”

Follow BVI New’s coverage of the 2021 Commission of Inquiry on Instagram @BVINewsOnline #TrackingTransparency at www.bvinews.com.

Copyright 2022 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

81 Comments

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  1. Corrupt says:

    Please investigate virgin gorda fishing Grant’s. M*****l C paid himself a 9000$ grant and he not qualified as he got full time employment elsewhere. If the head of fisheries is corrupt we hot problems. Then us Fisher folk get nothing. Pls investigate i have list of names who got paid. Them not Fisherman

    Like 59
    • @ corrupt says:

      Post up the list of the names who got money on Facebook

      Like 15
    • Ooohhhh. Boiiii says:

      @ Corrupt Your name suits you SO right If you read the news you will see NOT even the Ministry had control of payments but PREMIERS OFFICE You should apologize to Michael Collins for scandalizing his name because he did NOT pay any one . Shame on you for hiding behind your corrupt name : he should put a lawyer on ur rass

  2. Unconventional leadership says:

    Thank you Ms Webster and uncle Gus. You both made the bvi proud. These are the kind of folks that makes countries proud. When the interim government is established both yourself and David Archer should be called to serve.

    Like 98
    • Well says:

      I don’t know about David but this woman has gained my respect. The best witness thus far. Ms. Webster if you are reading this blog, its time to consider a career in politics. We need more like you. Thank you for a job well done.

      Like 99
      Dislike 2
      • Deh Watcha says:

        No disrespect. She might be a good Auditor General, but it does not mean she will make a good politician.

        Not everyone is cut out for politics.

        Like 10
        Dislike 34
      • To The Rock says:

        So??? Is she the only one who walked passed people????? I can name MANY MANY MANY people who do that, including MANY of the ministers, also lawyers(even your local boy who works for S***). Anyway, the list goes on…society has gone to the dogs, people have no manners and respect for others.

      • @ The rock says:

        You want a politician to stop and chat so can ask favors???

    • @ unconventional leadership says:

      Leave David Archer out of that one, He still can’t tell Ex-P** she was wrong for her abuse of authority.

      Like 11
  3. Farmer says:

    I know one farmer who got a grant but is just starting this week to get his own land to get going. I think the criticism of this stimulus initiative is extremely premature.

    Like 8
    Dislike 45
    • @farmer says:

      So how do you qualify for something that did not even start? Do the application form say apply for a farm that you plan to do in the future. the person who got this money should be made by the courts to pay it back.

      Like 71
    • Cato says:

      I know several who do not even have a back yard tomato garden and plenty who tried farming after collecting the stimulus and failed.

      Like 24
    • Huh? says:

      You’ve just confirmed it was not an existing farmer who was losing money due to COVID.

  4. Nothing new says:

    We know the government crooked, so this shouldn’t be news. Hope they hire security for her since she seems like the only one standing against the corruption

    Like 111
    Dislike 2
    • @Nothing new says:

      AND GUESS WHAT, NO ONE WOULD NOT DARE MESS WITH HER. THEY DO OR TRY, WE WOULD ALL KNOW WHO IS INVOLVED NO MATTER HOW SNEAKY AND GRIMEY THEY ARE. REMEMBER, ALL THE GOING ONS IN THE BVI IS BEING WATCHED BY THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY. THINGS IS ABOUT TO CHANGE BIG TIME IN THE BVI.

      Like 11
  5. Hold hold hold says:

    I am public officers and I am amazed that the law has been broken while at the same time not allowing due process and the COI and Auditor General are guilty of both. Such report by the Auditor General must be made public through a process first and the report must allow for comments from the accused. Clearly the law is not up held when it is not the UK and this seems to be fine with those that hate the government.

    Like 5
    Dislike 76
    • Resident says:

      In her testimony Ms. Webster said that she invited comment from those she wrote about in her report. I assume that they were so arrogant they did not reply. It’s actually very funny; there was so much complacency about failing to account for, or misusing public money that no one even tried to cover their tracks properly. Then the C o I came along. If it wasn’t the poorest who suffer when public money is stolen or wasted it would be funny. As it is, it is tragic that vulnerable and disadvantaged children did not get the help contracted for. How low can you stoop?

      Like 26
    • Hold Nothing says:

      Here talking nonsense about who hate and the government neck-deep in shite. Hold Hold Hold nothing. Try to hold them accountable

      Like 12
    • Collusion says:

      Convenient that you only challenge some processes. You should have the opportunity to respond, contact the COI and testify. It cant just be the politician. We need to get rid of those who help themselves, time for self serving public ‘servants’ to move on.

  6. Looks like Andy... says:

    Acts like Andy. Smells like Andy. It is Andy

    Like 50
    Dislike 3
  7. My view says:

    I really think the auditor general report has some merit in some areas but I also think that it was rushed and should allow for more research.

    Like 6
    Dislike 49
    • Ok says:

      Nice opinion but who you really is?

      Like 8
      Dislike 1
    • my view says:

      Allow for more research hoping your name don’t get pull up. That’s all it is. What rush, ayo so accustom of staying a year to write a sentence that you can’t realize the woman has her facts together all the time

      Like 19
      Dislike 1
  8. Bigger picture says:

    Many of the people in the V.I. are suffering since Irma and now covid. Whenever any government try to help the people the UK and some of our locals who work with them try to find every angle that sounds legitimate to either stop the help, slow down the help or make it impossible to get the help.

    Like 9
    Dislike 57
    • Hey says:

      That’s not true. You can type the words. You can fool yourself if you want to, but it doesn’t make them true. You choose to say that for your own reasons. Not because of facts. And now you spreading your nonsense around like a virus.
      A lot had happened since Irma. Some good some bad. Face the real world, don’t make stuff up and spread your nonsense.

  9. Belonger says:

    This is enough to justify the need for the COI.

    Like 81
    Dislike 3
    • Jah says:

      Welcome back our British masters

      Like 14
      Dislike 22
      • well says:

        Decide now which slave you want to be?
        house slave?
        cotton picking slave?
        which one?

        Please, why lay this at the UK feet? WE did this to OURSELVES!!

        Like 24
        Dislike 3
        • Captain P says:

          Yes, you did it to yourselves and it’s been happening for years and years. What did you do to stop it? NOTHING! That’s why it has gone on for years and years!It takes someone from the outside to step in and shed the light and act. You are not able to police yourselves. Isn’t that obvious?

  10. 2030 says:

    Time longer than twine. More to come to light of what goes on in the dark.

    BVI has a lot a lot a lot of wickedness in it for a small nation. And a lot who claim God will forgive when they willfully and deliberately act wickedly and assume on God’s mercy will pay heavily.

    Time longer than twine. Twine bust not time.

    Like 33
  11. Evil To The Bone says:

    Stabbing a man everyday in his back and still asking for his help!

  12. Doh says:

    Another nail in the coffin for this government.

    Welcome back U.K.

    Like 49
    Dislike 2
  13. informed says:

    With the rush to get a fishing industry going there is an increase is Ciguatera fish poisoning. Looks like inexperienced fishermen out these catching the wrong fish in the wrong areas.
    A carful restructuring of the fisheries is greatly needed. Sustainability, accountability is needed..

    Like 24
    Dislike 1
  14. Rubber Duck says:

    And that was not the only thing she revealed.

    Hundreds of thousands of dollars were given by Fahie to Skelton Cline that remain totally unaccounted for.

    Millions of dollars were given by Fraser to people including two of his brothers for a marina that never happened.

    Anyone who believes this COI was not necessary is either deeply stupid or in receipt of the money stolen from the people.

    Like 87
    Dislike 1
    • Rubber Duck says:

      I am waiting to hear arrests made. In U.S. all this muck would be a federal crime and if it was me I would not be comfortable

      Like 19
      Dislike 1
      • @Rubber Duck says:

        Also in the US, CHARGES WOULD HAVE BEEN SLAPPED ON THEM. MOST OR ALL OF THESE GUYS WOULD BE SPENDING SOME TIME AT CAMP FED.

        Like 7
        Dislike 1
  15. TY says:

    Thank you Ms. Webster! You are appreciated!

    Like 68
    Dislike 1
    • Yes says:

      THANK YOU MS.WEBSTER. YOU ARE TRULY APPRECIATED. THANK YOU. DONOT WORRY FOLKS. A BIG CHANGE IS COMING TO THE BVI. ALL THE EVIL DOERS THEIR CRONIES AND FAMILY MEMBERS WHO IS LIVING HIGH ON THE HOG WILL GET WHAT IS COMING TO THEM. RANDY ANDY AND HIS GANG OF OPPORTUNIST AND OPPRESSORS HAVE TO GO ASAP!!!!!

      Like 24
  16. Unconventional leadership says:

    Dear Mr Hon Premier, you have a tendency when speaking to say ” your government ” let me say after recent revelations that this is not the government we voted for. You ran your campaign on transparency, honesty, integrity and we ask you to show us what good governance is all about. Is this a silly joke.

    A bishop said recently that that we will laugh in the night and cry in the morning I told him no then. I am even now more convinced of the folly of the statement. Our children will thank uncle Gus for this COI. You all told us the while man coming to enslave us. The truth they are coming to liberate us.

    I really thought that Britain needed to take over. Not anymore, for the last couple of days listening to the COI I am convinced that we can police ourselves. We don’t need ndp or VIP. What tortola needs is a unity government, headed by David Archer as the people’s premier and Ms Webster as his deputy and occupying the finance chair.

    The COI will turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Mark my word.

    Like 58
    Dislike 8
  17. Secret Bear says:

    You mean “allow time for the evidence to be destroyed “

    Like 14
  18. TRUST ME says:

    I know of a fake farmer who got $13,000, he spend most of it on a scooter.

    Like 39
  19. BVI Future says:

    UK rules or BVI independence. This will be the outcome of this COI.

  20. shaken says:

    I do not know Mrs. Webster or Mrs. Romney-Varlack (registrar of interests) but they both deserve medals for valiant attempts to protect BVI taxpayers from possible criminal activity by those charged with protecting and defending the very territory they have tried to defile. It cannot be easy to be demeaned, ignored and ridiculed by government ministers, and very probably senior public servants supposedly working in the interests of taxpayers. This shameful story is a terrible moment in the history of the BVI…..

    Like 64
    • Definitely says:

      It sure is!!

    • Jane says:

      as recently as 4 June, Mrs Romney-Varlack was relieved of her duties as registrar. Apparently she was “desirous of relinquishing her position”. The timing seems very odd, and cannot be coincidental -did she jump or was she pushed?

      Like 18
    • Unsung Heroes says:

      WOMEN. OF INTEGRITY and TERRITORIAL PRIDE.
      They are but a few of the unsung heroes who care about good governance and carrying out the duties of the offices they are appointed to. More integrity than the ones we voted for on ballots. My Goodness. They are the ones who use their offices for good, rather than bullying, cronyism, and nepotism. THANK YOU!!
      And there are some of you civil service members who toil, and work like the very people of the BVI depend on you, and we THANK YOU also, because ayooo is the ones who really work for us, who know policies and procedures, who try to steer these ministers and “leaders” in the right directions, even when your expertise, knowledge, and you yourself are challenged.

      Like 14
  21. Guest says:

    Please investigate how crown land is allocated and distributed for private use and subleasing…….

    Like 35
  22. redstorm says:

    DO anyone know if the new list of payment for the farmer and fisherfolks came out to the public?

    Like 24
    Dislike 1
    • Firestorm says:

      @redstorm, I was asking around the way for some info myself. I JUST WANT THE REAL FISHERMEN AND REAL FARMERS TO BE TAKEN CARE OF IN THE RIGHT WAY. P**SES ME OFF WHEN PEOPLE WITH A FEW FLOWERS IN THEIR YARD OR A BOAT GOT BIG CHECKS. ALL THE FAKERS WHO GOT BIG CHECKS THAT WAS NOT QUALIFIED, SHOULD BE UNDER INVESTIGATION BY THE COI.

      Like 14
  23. Guest says:

    Thank you Ms Webster, you have ethics and morals two things rare in the BVI, let the facts be stated

    Like 42
    Dislike 1
  24. CSC says:

    Stole (allegedly) from the churches pretending to run a community based program. He claimed for travel, consulting, computers and put it all in his own bank account. Who is going to go to prison for all this wickedness?

    Like 47
    Dislike 1
  25. PLAIN & simple says:

    ANDY PANDY HAVE TO GO.

    Like 27
  26. Irishman says:

    Looks like the VIP need a house painter

    Like 14
  27. question says:

    Ask question/ Do not be an dissembler there are three side to a
    accusation before decisions are made do not be an accuser power struggle is a damaging thing. who is the initiators.
    Pray!!! for wisdom.

  28. Be careful what you wish for people says:

    All who saying that the Col is a blessing would be the first set of people crying when the UK takes over and your family and friends loose their jobs or even you yourself will be jobless because trust me they are anxiously waiting to take over. They will then buy up all our homes and properties once they take over. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR PEOPLE!!

    Like 2
    Dislike 41
    • hush up says:

      You are one of them who want us sit back and clap at all the injustice, stealing and dirtiness all the governments have been doing over the years. Time for it to stop, let us put proper checks and balances in place and we go back to the drawing board. You think UK want to come run here? No, they will hang around and put working systems in place and leave us to show that we can behave and be honest

      Like 22
      • ,.., says:

        Sick man

        Ha the UK will show us the way? The UK is the reason why were in this mess to begin with. Not only that they bungled their Covid response and wanted us to follow their example

        The UK says one thing in the light and in the darkest shadows move deceitfully. They are orchestrators that will pull the wool over your eyes and have you think they are saintly.

        Look they sent a warship here to stir up the waters during Covid. They sent a warship to Russia the past week and lied about what occurred.

        Then they accidentally dropped documents in public talking about possible Russian patrol responses before the violation of its borders. What secret agent drops secret documents and not turn back for them?

        That shiii was meant to be found for a specific reason. They’re very cunning.

        Like 1
        Dislike 3
  29. Deh Watcha says:

    I have said it before.

    If the business list comes out, person’s heads will spin.

    No wonder access was blocked to it.

    Like 23
  30. fo tru says:

    agree with you brittany

  31. @ ASKING says:

    SO YOU AFRAID TO POST MY BLOG PR ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE TRUTH

    • Big AL says:

      # Asking
      Lmao my blog is not published either. Becaus my truth is they need locking up so my blog is suppressed. Smh

  32. Lol says:

    Please come for Port because smh

  33. Wow says:

    A lot of people jealous bad. You know the amounts the people got and (government employees) have shown they can not be responsible with confidential information. This woman and her team self would likely leak info. The COI had there info leaked now they know what our concerns are first hand.

    All we hear about is transparency in public funds. WTF Iv been paying my dues with money and body to the public way before this and when it was rough there was no public to turn to. Not social security which I have paid for years. nothing.

    When I paid for my trade license years ago I barely had enough to pay for the license & to pay social security/national health insurance.

    None of y’all public persons would have paid for my license out of the kindness of your heart you would say stop begging but now after a PANDEMIC you see peoples name on a list and want to be up in the details of peoples business when you don’t know the struggle the businesses went through to survive.

    I don’t want to be subject to unnecessary public drama while the dust is in the air that itself is improper. I expected to write a report to professionals in due time not to be rushed & gawked at by Tom Dick and Jane looking news while they sit in their air conditioned offices getting paid to lounge & gossip.

    This move by the government is one which will benefit those age old industries over time. When it comes to god have faith only he can truly multiply. If you don’t have faith the greatest investment will never appear to be a risk worth taking!

    Ecclesiastes 11:1
    Ecclesiastes 11:6

    Like 1
    Dislike 19
    • Go suddung… says:

      …you setty dry weather fowl wid yah nonsense….buuuurrrrrrrrr…….

      • No you go sit down says:

        All you can do is hit dislike and sling mud. You want to sling mud?

        Some of you are heartless, selfish donkeys who claim to be of the public and in the public best interest yet you do nothing to benefit others in the community.

        As rough as things are my hand breaks bread for the less fortunate.

        That is true christian behavior. No you devil you go sit down. Take a back seat and open a bible if you can stand it.

        Like 1
        Dislike 1
  34. Hmmm says:

    Looks like there should be a name change to Nature’s Big Secrets

    Like 14
    Dislike 1
  35. Samuel says:

    Its a pity it had to come to this. It was open season on tax payers funds for far too long. I imagine Government thought that all the nonsense they did would stay buried. I still think should look deeper into the personal property of some current and former elected officials. Those that own villas in exclusive areas in the BVI, the ONB’s etc.

    Like 12
  36. heckler says:

    I believe her

  37. @ HOLD says:

    AFTER ALL THE EVIDENCE YOU STILL TRYING TO WIGGLE YOUR DIRTY MENTALITY WAY OUT OF IT ( GO AND PLAY WITH YOURSELF HYPOCRITE

  38. @ BECAREFUL says:

    WHERE WAS YOUR MOUTH WHEN SHE WAS REAVEALING WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THE NDP / WELL THE SHOE IS ON THE OTHER FOOT NOW / GET A LIFE CANARY

    Like 2
    Dislike 1
  39. Well sah 2 says:

    U notice only the women and the police guys that was honest. Listen we need a woman Government here. Facts

    Like 9
    Dislike 2
  40. Keep telling you all says:

    WE NEED A ALL WOMEN CABINET. WE NEED TO START FROM SCRATCH.IT IS TIME FOR THE MEN TO SIT ASIDE AND WATCH AND LEARN HOW A COUNTRY SHOULD RUN. WOMEN IS THE FIXERS, WE GET THINGS DONE. A ALL WOMEN CABINET WILL BE GOOD BUSINESS FOR THE BVI AS WELL.

  41. public servants. says:

    My God instead of paying hard working teachers their increments five years now!! they dont even get a proper thank you at the end of a school year!! this is crazy money they owe to public servants and this is how they waste it. Sickening now!!

  42. Curious says:

    An honest woman! Good for you Sonia!

  43. Captain Flint says:

    Sonia Webster for Premier!

  44. Curious says:

    She has put her head above the parapet. Brave woman.

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