The opposition-led Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is set to begin its first set of meetings next month, promising to probe government spending, including $2M on the 2019 Emancipation Festival.
If needs be, the opposition intends to also summons persons who conduct business with government to answer questions before PAC.
During a press conference today, January 23, Opposition Leader, Hon. Marlon Penn, who is Chairman of the PAC, said there are projects which have raised red flags including the monies spent on festival.
“…Festival as I mentioned is one that is of grave concern to us, $2M went up in poof in two weeks in the air. We need to give account for that $2M…we have yet to have a proper accounting on how the monies were spent, so that is something that we are going to delve in,” he told reporters.
He added that there is the issue of the private security contract for the Premier.
"The private security firm where he was paying $86,000 a year, a month and that went on for ten months,” he said.
Hon. Melvin Mitch Turnbull, Representative for the Second District and Opposition Member, also touched on the Festival expenditure and noted that there are some monies not accounted for. He said that he intends to get answers.
“I was reminded that this was the preliminary report from Festival, so I pray to God within the next couple of weeks before the next House (of Assembly) meeting we get the final report…The people have a right to know how their monies are spent; we are approaching April with Virgin Gorda Festival; we cannot continue to let things go unchallenged,” Hon. Turnbull stressed.
Festival celebrations are held under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture, which is headed by Dr. the Hon. Natalio D. Wheatley.
Hon. Penn made it clear that PAC will not only be focusing on projects which were done under the current Virgin Islands Party (VIP) government, but will span those under his former National Democratic Party (NDP), including the controversial BVI Airways and Elmore Stoutt High School (ESHS) wall projects.
He also mentioned that the ‘Virgin Islands Neighbourhood Partnership Project’ which was done back in 2008 by current government consultant, Mr Claude Skelton Cline will also be probed.
“There is the neighborhood project that happened some time ago that we never had a full report ventilated, there is even the BVI Airways, there is the Elmore Stoutt High School wall. There are all these things that even happened under my administration that we need to look at,” Hon. Penn stated.
PAC also intends to look at audited accounts dating back to 16 years.
He assured that PAC’s work will be effective.
“It’s our intent to be very active, we have scheduled meetings every week after the 4th (February) to delve into those reports…audited accounts to ensure that there are some accountability, the way government’s money is spent, the way projects have been executed…Key projects we have raised as red flags,” the Opposition Leader stated.
Hon. Julian Fraser, Third District Representative and Opposition Member, also mentioned that PAC has the authority to summon persons to help find answers. He said that they do not intend to solely depend on government for information.
“We want to make it clear going into this next Public Accounts Committee, we are not going to rely only government. A private citizen or a private company that had business with the government is opened to be summoned before the Public Accounts Committee and they must answer the questions whether or not the matter is in court…We have that power to do those things and answers we must get,” Hon. Fraser said.
Penn reemphasized that they will not only focused on projects done under the VIP administration.
“We are not going to be partisan in our approach to examine the government’s spending on government projects,” the Opposition Leader said.