By Davion Smith, BVI News Staff
Government may have breached the Protocols of Effective Financial Management — an agreement signed with the United Kingdom roughly six years ago to ensure transparency and accountability as it relates to handling public funds.
The suspected breach was in relation to the half-million-dollar Road Town Ferry Terminal renovation project completed in May.
According to Section 11b of the agreement, “ALL projects must be subjected to a tendering and procurement process that guarantees the highest level of transparency and fairness practicable.”
But, while answering questions in the House of Assembly on Thursday, Works Minister Mark Vanterpool admitted government did not invite any contractors to bid on the project.
He said, instead, two contractors were hired for the job after receiving an endorsement.
“Due to time constraints and the need for urgent attention following hurricanes Irma and Maria and [due to] damages to the ports, recommendations were made to the BVI Ports Authority by the then project manager and the then acting manager to engage Sun State builders on October 31, 2017 in the sum of $445,431.79 and J&B Maintenance in the sum of $30,000 for remedial works and roof repairs at the port,” Vanterpool explained.
He did not give any indication the UK had relaxed the conditions of the 2012 agreement to allow government to sidestep the mandated tendering process.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie was sceptical about Vanterpool’s explanation. He suggested Vanterpool’s claim of ‘time constraints’ was an excuse given the project was only undertaken ‘the other day’ — several months after Hurricane Irma.
‘No sense to erect temporary West End dock now’
Vanterpool and the National Democratic Party government also came under pressure for the West End Ferry terminal, which is yet to reopen since the 2017 disasters.
The minister said government has had to abandon their initial plan to erect a temporary facility at the West End dock because the territory is now faced with another hurricane season.
“One has to make decisions as we go along, based on the circumstances. The circumstance that prevails now is one which says it wouldn’t make sense to put a temporary tent that can withstand up to 40 or 50 miles an hour winds when we are approaching the hurricane season,” Vanterpool said.
“Since the temporary season has passed without hurricanes, we should look for more permanent solutions at this point.”
The minister said government is now working conjunctively with the Ports Authority to erect a ‘better facility’ that can withstand hurricane force winds and house Customs and Immigration officers.
Unspecified time when West End dock will reopen
Asked fresh questions in relation to when such a facility will be erected, Vanterpool said he does not know.
“I don’t want to venture on any date until we can come to a point where we can assure the [House of Assembly] member (Fahie) and the public that we are ready to open the West End port. We will strive to do that as soon as possible. I am aware as minister that it is essential to the country’s growth and to the country’s economy and I am very anxious to see it open as quickly as possible … But, I cannot give a specific date at this time,” he told the House of Assembly.
Vanterpool and his ministry has been promising to erect a semi-permanent structure at the West End port but has not honoured any of their promised timelines.
One of the latest updates was given in March when Permanent Secretary in Vanterpool’s ministry, Anthony McMaster said the terminal would open in late April or early May.
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