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Smith: We need to account for the pier money

Cromwell ‘Edju En Ka’ Smith

Cromwell ‘Edju En Ka’ Smith

While declaring that the National Democratic Party government should have accounted properly for the massive over-spend on the Tortola Pier Park project a long time ago, social commentator Cromwell ‘Edju En Ka’ Smith this week challenged the administration to explain the more than $30 million cost over-run.

At the end of January 2016, Minister of Communication and Works Mark Vanterpool disclosed that the project already cost $82.9 million.

Premier Dr D Orlando Smith, amid public outcry, announced in September last year that Cabinet had hired KPMG to conduct a forensic investigation into the project. He added that Cabinet also approved the terms of reference for the investigation.

Leader of the Opposition Andrew Fahie will, on April 18, use the House of Assembly to seek more answers about the forensic investigation as well as certain details regarding the funds spent on the project.

Considering the investigation and the Opposition’s hunt for information, Edju En Ka, during his ‘Spotlight’ programme on JTV this week, expressed dissatisfaction that such effort has to be brought to bear to get a proper explanation from Government.

“We need to account for the money. I think we should have done it immediately, a long time ago instead of having to go through the long process. It would have been better for the government and for the public.[There are] speculations and rumours and so on. It should have been done long ago.”

“So I am glad to see Honourable Fahie is asking about it, and I hope to hear some good answers – good responses and this issue moved forward and out of the way,” Edju En Ka further said.

Nothing wrong with over spending

He, in the meantime, stated that, despite the controversy, the cruise pier/park has brought value to the British Virgin Islands.

He also thinks nothing is wrong per se with the cost over-run.

A section of Tortola Pier Park

A section of Tortola Pier Park

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with having over-spend for the cruise ship pier. It is a beautiful pier, and it has really added value to the territory. We’ve had tremendous increase in tourists since the pier is in operation. But we need to know if they built some kiosk more sturdy and it costs the extra $20 million or $30 million. I don’t see anything wrong with explaining to the public [that] these are the changes that we made and so this is what costs the money,” added Edju En Ka.

The Minister of Communication and Works, Vanterpool, repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in relation to the project.

In February last year, he also admitted that he should have been more forthright and meticulous despite his rush to have the project completed. Vanterpool partly blamed faulty budgetary estimates for the over-spend.

“I would want to do things differently. I would have liked to have the luxury of more time to make better preparation for the cruise pier development to get the right estimates and so on. The time between when we took the project (September 2013) from Tortola Port Partners and began to deliver it to try to meet deadlines that we had agreed with the cruise ships; I would have liked to have more time that we could have done better planning and do the estimates for the project,” Vanterpool said in February 2016.

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