Just a few short months away from the territory’s next General Election, Governor Augustus Jaspert has been accused of abusing the privilege of his office to meddle in the electoral affairs of the British Virgin Islands.
Education Minister Myron Walwyn levelled that accusation on Friday following reports that Governor Jaspert has gotten police involved in the controversy surrounding the perimeter wall that was erected around Elmore Stoutt High School.
“I find it unusual that no communication was sent to the Ministry of Education, indicating that the police was looking into the matter, particularly since there was no dishonesty raised in the Auditor General’s report … The people of the territory needs to see this for what it is, a blatant attempt to interfere in the electoral process of our country, and this is wrong,” said Walwyn, who stated that he has been made to understand that the police was handed the matter ‘several weeks’ ago.
Governor’s timing suspicious
He asserted that the Education Ministry should be told exactly what the police is looking into.
The education minister further said the timing of the governor’s action puts his (Governor Jaspert’s) motive into question.
“Elections are due within a few months and a statement of this nature — without stating properly any allegations — can prejudice the outcome of the elections … The effects of making such a statement in our community, particularly at this time, was raised verbally and in writing to the Governor which again, he completed ignored,” Walwyn argued.
Governor Jaspert got the police involved based on the ‘special report’ from the Office of the Auditor General, which stated that there were a number of “procedural issues and irregularities” in how the Walwyn-led ministry executed the wall project.
Gaping difference in cost estimates of wall
One of those so-called irregularities was the fact that the Auditor General, following the audit, said the near million-dollar wall’s ‘true cost’ is about $371,007.72.
Walwyn described that cost estimate as “grossly inaccurate” and criticised the Office of the Auditor General for not consulting the Department of Public Works or project manager SA Architect during the course of the audit.
Notably, three other entities gave vastly different cost estimations to that of the Auditor General.
According to Walwyn, the Public Works Department assessed the valued of the wall at $871,942.34, regional quantity surveying company BCQS costed the wall at $857,353.08, and a cost valuation from local company James Todman Construction priced the wall at $873,085.48.
“As recent as our last Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, December 12, I presented information to the Cabinet — the cost valuations from Government’s Public Works Department, James Todman Construction and BCQS. To me, based on the Governor’s recent statement, these were all seemingly ignored. I trust that the Governor shared this extensive documentary and professional evidence with the police and all the other relevant Government departments,” Walwyn said.
I respect Office of Governor but I respect my office too
‘I respect the role of the Governor as Her Majesty’s Representative. I respect the role of the Auditor General. But, I also respect myself and the office I was elected to by the people of the Virgin Islands. I also deeply respect my staff at the Ministry of Education and Culture who I know have been baffled by all that has been going on about the controversy surrounding a wall that is necessary for the protection of students and teachers of our largest public school, the Elmore Stoutt High School,” added Walwyn, who had violated the law by publicising the findings of the Auditor General’s report on the wall before it was tabled in the House of Assembly.
“While I have apologized for releasing the audit report prematurely, and I should not have done that, I hope now the public can see where my mind was at the time of that release. I had no faith in the process because of how it was being conducted, and the results now are evident.”
He continued: “I said to my staff at the time when the audit report was being conducted, that they should fully cooperate with the Auditor General’s Office, and I know they did. I am asking them again, to fully cooperate with the police and all other relevant government agencies, because we have absolutely nothing to hide. Justice delayed is justice denied, and so I call upon the Governor to ensure that there is an early resolution of this matter.”