Premier Andrew Fahie has questioned the apparent ‘rush’ to execute an audit of his government’s COVID-19 stimulus grants, arguing that ulterior motives may have been afoot.
During his appearance before the Commission of Inquiry (COI) yesterday, October 12, the Premier insinuated that the Office of the Auditor General may have conspired with UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab.
Raab, who has portfolio responsibility for UK Overseas Territories, had publicly backed former governor Augustus Jaspert’s decision to launch the Inquiry.
The Premier said yesterday that the Auditor General’s report seemed to have been specially prepared for the COI since it was never presented to the Cabinet or the the House of Assembly, as was supposed to be procedurally done.
“What was the rush with the report, Commissioner? I did not know the rush was [that] she was coming to the Commission of Inquiry,” Premier Fahie said.
“[The Auditor General was] trying to do a report in the middle of the worse pandemic in the last 100 years and speeding it up. Nobody understands that acceleration till afterwards now that I realise that we have a report in front of the Commission of Inquiry. It (the report) didn’t come to Cabinet, it didn’t come to the House of Assembly but it come to the Commission of Inquiry. And before that, the same things it is trying to allude to are what Dominic Raab said when he went to the House of Commons. It’s all related. So I have to come here to clear my government’s and my name. We have to clear the people of the Virgin Islands’ name. We ain’t thief no money,” the Premier further said.
My family and I were humiliated and but at risk
At the time, Fahie was being questioned why he was overly critical of the Auditor General’s report which, among other things, said the stimulus programme for farmers and fisherfolk violated procedure and inflated its payments to recipients.
The Premier was asked about this in the context of what the Auditor General would have known at the time of preparing the audit.
“Given how the money was distributed and the lack of transparency and accountability and authority for the payments, don’t you have some sympathy in general with the Auditor General’s report?” Sir Gary asked.
But Premier Fahie in responding by asking if anyone showed any sympathy for him and his family when allegations of corruption were first broached against the government.
“Commissioner, who have sympathy for when this whole inquiry was launched on me, when my wife and my picture end up in front of marijuana and drugs and have the world thinking that the BVI has a Premier that is a drug lord and a drug cartel? Who have sympathy on me?” Premier Fahie asked.
When asked how this could’ve been the responsibility of the Auditor General, the Premier side stepped the question.
Fahie said he was constantly asked about other persons, and insisted that he went through a lot as well.
Premier Fahie also told the commission that he felt that the Foreign Secretary endangered his children and said an apology was in order.
“They put our family at risk and nobody is studying that for us,” Fahie said.
Speaking more on the perceived ‘rush’ to audit his government’s stimulus programme, the Premier said the Auditor General should have waited and ‘cooler heads should have prevailed given the dire circumstances being faced by the territory at the start of the pandemic.
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