Minister for Communications and Works, Hon. Mark Vanterpool refuted corruption allegations and explained to the media on Tuesday that although the cruise pier and landside development totalled more than the original estimated cost there was value for money and he remains proud of the project.
Minister Vanterpool spoke at length and fielded questions from the media for more than an hour and also invited Project Manager Dion Stoutt to make a presentation on design changes and alterations that were made to the project. In fact the Minister even led the media to the Pier Park to examine some of the mentioned changes.
Recently Hugh Darley, of the Tortola Ports Partner (TPP) – former developer of the project -was interviewed by various local media. In those interviews Mr. Darley made serious allegations of corruption about the project and key persons association with the Pier Park.
However, the Minister dismissed questions about Mr. Darley’s accusations. In response Hon. Vanterpool stated: “Mark H. Vanterpool has not been and will not be involved in any corruption.”
“I have not seen any proof of the allegations and rumours, so until I see proof, I will stand by the BVIPA for the good work they have done…I have heard allegations, seen things written and heard things mentioned, but I don’t pay attention. I am confident in myself that I have never been involved in any corruption and don’t expect to be…And I am sure my mom would like to hear me say that,” he added.
“I am very confident and comfortable that I am not involved in any corruption or none of my members of government are involved in any corruption that people are alleging. And I will say if you are making allegations of corruption, prove it; bring your proof, information and present it and prove it. You may convince me at the end, but I don’t know of any corruption you are talking about until you prove it to me. I don’t even listen or read the information,” he said.
Hon. Vanterpool explained that the rush to meet certain deadlines may have caused some mistakes but he assured there was no corruption: “There can be mistakes along the way, or issues that may surround sometimes procurement and so on that you wish you had done better. In 20/20 vision, in your rush to deliver something, it can be done better. I would say that is possible, but if someone is accusing me of corruption or taking the government’s money or tax payers’ money, I don’t even take time to respond because I am very comfortable that is not so.”
From $50Millions to $82.9M
The earlier opposition concerns about the costs of the port project compounded with Mr. Darley’s accusations of overspending and the Minister’s admission in a statement in the House of Assembly last week that the project which was estimated to cost in the region $50M ballooned to $82.9M fuelled public discourse on the blogs.
On Tuesday the Minister explained that the major reason for the price increase was the fact that it was discovered that the original estimates were not realistic. This situation he said was noted when the bids from contractor were received.
“If five professionals say that they can build for $35M, $45M, they know…And somebody else comes and say that they can build it for $23M, this has to be that the somebody else has never built one and these five companies have built docks before…And then say I am corrupt because I built it for $35M?”
Hon. Vanterpool explained that extra costs increase is attributed to the fact that necessary changes were made to the original plan. One of these changes was in the building of the kiosks which the Minister said kept many of the original features, but were made to withstand disasters.
“These are kiosks that have solid wood, solid roof…It is not just a little piece of shack that you build at festival village. These are well built kiosks to last in times of hurricane and many years to come…So when somebody can tell you that they can build it for $2,000 and I show you we built it for nearly $45,000, then let’s talk; let’s get the proof, the proof has to be in the pudding and the proof is in the kiosks.”
“They were going to build the buildings on the sand and we said no, we have to build them on piles, costing nearly $6M…We built these buildings to suit the Virgin Islands to last for a very long time…So when someone comes and makes the allegations and say that we are corrupt because we built the buildings for a certain cost, bring the proof. I’m very proud of Mr. Dion Stoutt, who made sure that we got value for money; that we were not building anything that could be blown down during hurricane,” the Minister stated.
In relation to the announcement that was made by Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith that the project will be audited, Hon. Vanterpool announced that he welcomes the decision: “I don’t know what will come. I made it very clear I am very open to any audit on the project or ports authority, and whatever comes of the audit comes…But as Minister, there is nothing that I have seen that would make me be concerned about corruption on the project.”