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Smith reportedly heading on leave amid confusion

Financial Secretary Neil Smith

Financial Secretary Neil Smith

Financial Secretary Neil Smith is reportedly heading on leave next week Monday amid a massive controversy and confusion within the Ministry of Finance.

At a press briefing today, Governor John Duncan said he too has heard that the financial secretary is proceeding on leave, but he could not say if he was forced.

“I have heard that he is intending to go on leave. I have discussed it with the premier and I am assured that the premier has matters in hand to make sure that his absence on leave is not prejudicial,” said Governor Duncan.

Asked if he would speak with the financial secretary regarding his impending leave, the governor replied: “I can certainly do so. The weekend is coming and he is going on leave [on Monday]; so it’s not a lot of time [available for me to speak with him].”

BVI News Online has been making several attempts to reach the financial secretary by phone, but without success.

Governor Duncan told journalists that he met with Premier Smith today, adding that the premier is also very concerned about happenings at the Ministry of Finance, including the disbursement of funds and matters touching on accountability.

Commenting on a constitutional action he took to force Government to allocate more funds to the police, Governor Duncan indicated that the financial secretary’s response suggested that he could not clearly explain certain key issues.

“The financial secretary’s memo serves to underline the lack of clarity over what funds have been authorized, by whom, and the current state of disbursement, and the funds that remain available. This lack of transparency is not conducive to proper accounting, accountability, or operational effectiveness,” Governor Duncan today told journalists.

Meanwhile, at the start of this week, the financial secretary issued a public apology for an embarrassing situation in which Premier Smith was provided with wrong information regarding the status of cheques being prepared for the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF).

In response to the financial secretary’s apology, Premier Smith, earlier this week, said: “I sincerely regret and apologize 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.”

Furthermore, Governor Duncan last week said, one of the reasons he exercised his constitutional powers to force Government into providing the RVIPF with an additional $800,000, was because the staff at the Ministry of Finance had not been adhering to Premier Smith’s instructions regarding disbursement of funds.

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