Beautiful Virgin Islands

Monday, Oct 02, 2023

Friends & family! Privileged few in ‘political arena’ score big on grants

Friends & family! Privileged few in ‘political arena’ score big on grants

An audit into Public Assistance Grant programmes controlled by lawmakers and government ministries between January 2019 and May 2022 showed that there was possible abuse within those programmes and across all programmes.
According to the audit report issued by the government’s Internal Audit Department (IAD) in December 2022, evidence shows that individuals within the orbit of the political arena may have received preferential treatment in the awarding of grant assistance.

The report pointed out that the former Speaker of the House of Assembly’s son received 16 grants totalling $104,000 and also showed that immediate family members of the Private Secretary in the Premier’s Office received 10 grants totalling $178,166.

While the report found that disbursements from the programmes lacked accountability and transparency, it noted that none of the programmes – with the lone exception of the Ministry of Communications and Works – were being conducted in a manner that is financially accountable.

“Although there are requirements or a general expectation that recipients provide evidence of need and the use of funds, these requirements are seldom complied with and enforced,” the IAD report stated. “None of the programmes were found to be transparent as none have a documented and transparent approach to arriving at decisions.”

The report also disclosed that senior public officers in managerial roles received substantial assistance over the period reviewed, highlighting one instance in particular where a senior public officer and their immediate family members received grants totalling $217,900 over the period.

“While we understand that public officers and their families may experience situations where a legitimate need may exist, this discovery raises questions as to whether the officer’s position/office held played a role in the awarding of the assistance.”

The audit was commissioned in the wake of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) report which found that assistance grants distributed by members of the House of Assembly were done in a legally arbitrary and unlawful manner.
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