Third District Representative and Opposition Member Hon. Julian Fraser announced during his budget debate contribution on 26 April that staff at Prospect Reef, which is a government owned asset for quite a number of years, have not been paid since last year.
The Prospect Reef resort has been limping along for years and was promised by the previous NDP administration a resuscitation thanks to an agreement the former government made with investors. However, the property was forced into unavailability by hurricanes Irna and Maria in 2017.
In making the case for the security staff to be paid Hon. Fraser said: “Believe it or not, there are employees – it got three security guards down there … and these security guards are not being paid. The last time they got paid was August, but they religiously go to work and seemingly no matter who they talk to, they cannot get paid,” Hon. Fraser told the House of Assembly.
It was explained that the security officers ensure that no one takes up residence on the property: “I understand what they are guarding is against vagrants, people might try to take up residence there, so they trying to keep them out… We have a lot of people without home, without place to live in the Territory and that might be a nice place for them to consider.”
“Premier, I think this is under your ministry. I am saying to you that these people are people too and they have to live,” Hon Fraser added.
Prospect Reef in Red
This is not the first time legislators in the House of Assembly are learning of staff related debts owed by Prospect Reef. In fact, the debt situation previously surfaced on 19 December, 2016 when during the questions and answers section of the House of Assembly Hon. Fraser asked the then Premier and Minister for Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith to state if the Prospect Reef resort employees’ benefits/deductions for NHI, Social Security, and Inland Revenue were current.
In response the former Premier explained that the payments were in arrears: “It has been brought to my attention that Prospect Reef’s contribution to the BVI Social Security Board on behalf of its staff is outstanding from December 2012…It also has been brought to my attention that the contribution for the NHI have not been paid for the year. It is expected that the Social Security and NHI contributions will be brought up to date by the end of this year. Prospect Reef Resort is also delinquent in paying its payroll tax to Inland Revenue,” he disclosed.
It was also noted at that time that the resort is not being managed by government. “Firstly, it should be noted that Prospect Reef Resort is managed by an independent company – Prospect Reef Management Company Limited. A part of the responsibility of that company is to manage the affairs of the resort,” the then Premier explained.
An update on Prospect Reef’s efforts to clear the arrears was provided in 2017 during the Questions and Answer section of the House of Assembly on March 9. At that time, it was stated that Prospect Reef was working with the Social Security Board and the Premier’s Office to clear its outstanding debt which then stood at $31,129, and is for the year 2016.
It was noted that Prospect Reef already made payments for the previous years of 2013, 2014 and 2015. These payments included installments of $30,975.17 for 2013, $30,156.21 for 2014 and $31,027.76 for 2015.
Last year the 2012, and 2013 Auditor General reports were released and both documents noted that Prospect Reef was one of the Government entities that did not account for its finances.
The Prospect Reef Management Company (PRMC) was particularly mentioned by the Office of the Auditor General for its lack of reporting and accountability. Auditor General Sonia Webster said: “Self-financing agencies such as the Prospect Reef Management Company, which operates without a functioning board and is unable to present any audited financial statements are equally unaccountable and require oversight.”
In 2018 the five-member board of directors of the Prospect Reef Management Company Ltd. was reinstituted. The members are: Mrs. Delma Maduro Chairman of the Board, along with directors Mr. Basil “Bobby” Smith, Mr. David Abednego, Mr. David “Allen” O’Neal and Mr. K’nal Thomas.