Fourth District Representative in the Virgin Islands (VI) House of Assembly (HoA), Hon Mark H. Vanterpool, in responding to the question on the contract extension of Government consultant, Claude O. Skelton-Cline, said Government has the right to issue consultancies to push forward their agenda.
Hon Vanterpool was at the time speaking at the monthly Opposition press conference, on December 16, 2019, in the boardroom of the Office of the Virgin Islands House of Assembly in Road Town, Tortola, where he posited that a government, once it gets in office, will do what it seems fit to push forward its agenda.
Gov't has right - Hon Vanterpool
According to the Cabinet statement of November 22, 2019, Cabinet, "Decided on a new contract between Grace Consulting and the Government of the Virgin Islands for twelve (12) months with effect from 18th September 2019 to 17th August 2020 and approved."
Skelton-Cline, a strong supporter of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) Government, through his consultancy firm, Grace Consultants, have been given the contract through the waiver of the tender process which, according to Cabinet, was done given his past successful performance under his previous 6-months contract.
"Obviously time will tell on these matters, but I always say in terms of fairness, and in terms of our government's promises that a government, once they get to office, has the right and the discretion as they use it," he told the media in relation to a question on whether there was evidence that Skelton-Cline through Grace Consultants was deserving of a contract extension.
Hon Vanterpool continued, "I may not agree with it, or whoever, but they have the right and the discretion... to help them move forward their agenda... I am not going to make it an issue."
Perform or be fired - Premeir Fahie
Following the contract extension, there was some amount of backlash over the issuance of the contract with Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) stating publicly that Mr Skelton-Cline would be fired if he doesn't deliver.
Hon Vanterpool posited, "The issue of accountability, in the long run, is what is going to be important but if the government makes a decision in their discretion to have a consultant to advise them I have no objections."
He said under the National Democratic Party (NDP) government they too made decisions to hire consultants, hence, it would be unfair for him to have objections to the practice, rather, the focus should remain on the aspect of accountability.