The government has found itself in another embarrassing situation, which has prompted public apologies at the start of this week from Financial Secretary Neil Smith as well as Premier and Minister of Finance Dr D Orlando Smith.
The apologies came after the Ministry of Finance furnished Premier Smith with wrong information about the status of four cheques that were to be prepared for the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF).
Premier Smith, last week Thursday, relayed the wrong information to the public when he rushed into damage control mode; this after Governor John Duncan announced that he was using his constitution powers to force Government to allocate an additional $800,000 to the RVIPF.
At the time, Governor Duncan also said the staff at the Ministry of Finance had not been adhering to Premier Smith’s instructions regarding disbursement of funds.
Premier Smith, however, defended his staff.
Days later, it has come to light that the staff had provided Premier Smith with wrong information about the status of most of the cheques that were said to be ready for collection since last December.
In fact, none of the six cheques were ready for collection at the time. Two were only made ready for pick-up this month.
The financial secretary, in a media release from government yesterday, suggested that the errors regarding the status of the cheques were picked up during an ‘audit’ of the information transmitted.
“I am pleased that our internal processes were able to identify the discrepancies between what we communicated and what was actually obtained. We remain committed to ensure that all information and advice provided from the Ministry is accurate and factual,” the financial secretary said.
“I apologise to the minister of finance (Premier Smith) for this error, and on behalf of the ministry of finance hereby take full responsibility for providing the inaccurate information that was previously reported.”
The financial secretary, in the meantime, explained that the checks that were readied for the RVIPF in December 2016, and were available for pick-up as of March 16 this year related to:
- Purchase of six interceptor vehicles and repairs
- Maintenance and purchase of equipment of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force Marine Unit
The other checks that the premier referenced last week, but were found not to be ready for collection relate to:
- The upgrade to the CCTV camera system
- Purchase of Law Enforcement Equipment from TEC Supply
- Renovation to cells at the Road Town Police Station by J&J Construction
- Sanitary ware for cells
Premier Smith, in the meantime, said he has been given the assurance that such blunder will not happen again.
“I sincerely regret and apologise that some of the information which I reported to the people of this Territory on March 16 was inaccurate. It is very responsible that the Financial Secretary and his team take ownership for the inaccurate information, which they provided. I am assured that this should never happen again.”
“Very importantly, I have candidly discussed this matter with His Excellency the Governor and have updated him,” added Premier Smith. “As Premier and Minister of Finance, I always endeavour to report to you honestly, truthfully and accurately.”
The parliamentary opposition, on numerous occasions, also questioned the accuracy of Ministry of Finance information that the premier had provided to the House of Assembly.
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