Controversy was sparked in the public domain when information from the reports was presented to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) even before the documents were sent to the Governor and the relevant Ministers and then brought before the House of Assembly as is the legal procedure.
There have also been concerns over the accuracy of some of the information in the reports.
At a Special Online Cabinet Meeting chaired by Governor John J. Rankin, CMG, on July 14, 2021, Cabinet decided that despite the concerns the reports would be laid in the House of Assembly.
According to a Cabinet Post Meeting Statement published on July 29, 2021, Cabinet noted the Auditor General’s Special Report on the Government’s stimulus programme for religious organisations, civic groups, daycares and private schools that was launched as a part of the COVID-19 recovery initiative and decided that the Auditor General’s Special Report, “in spite of the concerns over the methodology used in developing the report and concerns over the accuracy of some of the content of the report, be laid, with names of recipients redacted, by the Attorney General before the House of Assembly at the next Sitting or at its next meeting thereafter.”
Cabinet also noted the Auditor General’s Special Report on the Government’s stimulus programme for farmers and fisherfolks that was launched as a part of the COVID-19 recovery initiative and “decided that the Auditor General’s Special Report, in spite of the concerns over the methodology used in developing the report and concerns over the accuracy of some of the content of the report, be laid, with names of recipients redacted, by the Attorney General before the House of Assembly at the next convenient Sitting or at its next meeting thereafter.”
Auditor General, Ms Sonia M. Webster, appearing before the CoI on June 28, 2021, alleged that stimulus amounts requested by farmers and fisherfolks were inflated by the Premier’s Office prior to payment, which meant applicants received more than they requested.
The Attorney General noted that a request made by 70 farmers totalled $351,730 but the total payments amounted to more than $1,000,000.
Speaking to the matter during VIP’s Let’s Talk on 780 AM ZBVI on June 29, 2021, Premier and Minister of Finance Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) had assured that all funds for the stimulus grants given out to the public can be fully accounted for.
The Territory’s leader had also said that the truth will eventually come out regarding the allegations.
Noting that the Internal Audit Department and the Auditor General’s Office are crucial components of good governance, Hon Fahie had said the audits “represent a snapshot picture at a given point in time, therefore at a different point in time, the picture can change as the available information changes.”
Premier Fahie had continued, “The validity and accuracy of an audit report also depends on the data that was analysed, to come to the findings and conclusion. If the information is incomplete, then it will not show the whole picture. So if all the data was not analysed or all of the data was not available to be analysed, in terms of availability, then the conclusion of the report has to be approached with caution because the analysis was not based on all the data. All I can say at this time is that time will reveal the truth.”