By Mellica McPherson-Ganda
“Failed in terms of transparency. Failed in terms of accountability. Failed in terms of Conflict of Interest. Failed in terms of good governance,” Leader of the Opposition and First District Representative, Hon. Andrew Fahie declared as he responded to Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith’s midterm report during a radio broadcast on 11 July.
On 10 July Premier Smith presented his midterm report to the Territory and announced that his Government has managed the Territory’s finances well, and invested more in the Territory than any other government in BVI history.
However, the Leader of the Opposition disagreed with the Premier’s positive report and described the BVI Leader’s address as “phantom like.” Hon. Fahie even flunked the government by sticking a failing grade to certain areas of the NDP’s noted accomplishments.
In a scathing review of the six years of the Smith Administration, Hon. Fahie accused the Government of boasting about success while the populace is struggling. “It was quite amazing that the Premier would boast on how well financially the Territory is performing when everyone in the Territory knows otherwise. Bills incurred by this NDP Government are either not being paid or not being paid in a timely manner. Projects cannot be completed. Programmes are being discontinued. Institutions are suffering for the lack of funding. These are not signs of a healthy financial company nor a healthy financial government. The Premier at some point in his administration must come clean to the people of the Virgin Islands. The days of perception management must end,” Hon. Fahie announced.
In strengthening his call for the Premier to “come clean” the Leader of the Opposition noted the recent appointments of United Kingdom (U.K) nationals to positions such as Commissioner of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, Auditor General, Director of Prosecutions, and Head of Her Majesty’s Prison. He then announced that these appointments might mean trouble ahead. “The U.K. has now appointed personnel to each of the seven primary posts and more are pending,” Hon. Fahie declared.
Chief among his concerns are alleged issues of accountability where he mentioned reports of missing funds: “Thirty million dollars is still unaccounted for at the Pier Project. Seven million dollars flew out of our Treasury’s doors without any accountability for an airline, and now we have fights and not flights… The illegal transfer of eight million dollars from a loan approved by the House of Assembly to do, among other things, the East End/Long Look sewage project. Without the approval of the House of Assembly these funds were transferred to the Cruise Pier project and to date no accountability of how these funds were spent.”
Nonetheless, Hon. Fahie declared that the current financial issues are not an excuse for the implementation of more taxes: “If the NDP government failed to recognize the dire state of our finances, then how can they be expected to offer solutions or programmes which will get us to a position of strength once again. Seeking to tax your way into prosperity is a failed attempt. Credible cost saving operational measures must be a subject of debate.”
“The sudden increase of every tax known to man has created undue hardship to the business community,” he further noted on the issue of raised taxes.
Similarly, the Leader of the Opposition noted his worries about administrative transparency matters, among which are the outstanding Territorial audits: “The constitutionally required audits of the Territory’s finances for the past six consecutive years are still not produced to the House of Assembly. The increase of Government elected officials receiving major government contracts or services without going through any credible and transparent process has allowed conflict of interest to [the point of]now seem acceptable and within the confines of good governance. Increased advantages through pecuniary interest have also now been accepted as the norm for elected government officials,” he said.
Once more Hon. Fahie warned that vigilant attention should be taken to ensure that Government is adhering to the requirements of the Protocol for Effective Financial Management. In pointing out that he is not unduly stressing about the Protocols matter, Hon. Fahie said: “I want to assure that I am not searching for the ills of this NDP government, but what is troubling to me is that each of these activities listed, among others, I have painstakingly and regrettably informed the residents of the Virgin Islands in my Annual First District Reports and in the House of Assembly. The reason for the repetition is quite serious. Violations of any and each of these can result in valid reasons why the British Government will seek to justify further management of our Territory.”
“We cannot idly sit by and allow fancy speeches and perception management to take us to a point where we all will regret. Have there been positive decisions made by this Government? Yes, of course there have been positive decisions made but these positives will always and forever be overshadowed by the very subjects outlined,” Hon. Fahie added.