Following calls to pay the current staff of the hurricane-damaged Prospect Reef facility left abandoned by the former Dr D. Orlando Smith led National Democratic Party (NDP), Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie has revealed that the current staff complement of the facility is unknown.
Prospect Reef Mystery
"No one truly knows how many persons work at Prospect Reef," the Premier said in relation to questions by Opposition Leander and Member for the Eighth District, Hon Marlon A. Penn. Hon Penn had inquired about the total number of persons deemed to be working for the facility.
During the deliberations of the 2020 Standing Finance committee, it was revealed that current salaries were being held up by the Office of Attorney General (AG), Hon Baba F. Aziz, who has to issue instruments so that a new Prospect Reef Management Board can be put into place to be able to fulfil all outstanding obligations.
It was in July 2017, that former Premier, Dr D. Orlando Smith, at a press conference, announced an agreement to re-developed Prospect Reef Resort. The government had purchased the facility in the first National Democratic Party (NDP) administration between 2003 and 2007.
Dr Smith told the public in March 2016-when the ICA arrangement was mentioned-that ICA (BVI) Group Corp, was awarded the opportunity to complete the development of Prospect Reef Hotel. In December 2016, Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with that group.
COI Launched by Premier's Office
However, Chairman and CEO of the ICA Group, Mr Ali Nawaz Shaikh of the Middle East, in June 2019 detailed to Virgin Islands News Online (VINO), shocking revelations via emails and other correspondence regarding Dr Smith and his administration’s handling of the project in what can be described as a beyond lacklustre manner, which, according to the ICA Group top brass, showed they cared little for the people and the territory.
Following long bureaucratic ‘tie up’ which spanned the majority life of the project, on February 24, 2019, just hours before the February 25, 2019, General Elections in the VI, Dr Smith Reached out again to investors to find out why the project, including Dolphin Discovery, was stalled.
According to the ICA Group CEO, “I think that was very odd that he’s not even the Premier and sending a message to Dolphin and to us… He was looking for a job to get him hired like an advisor or something because it doesn’t make sense, why would he reach out to us?” Mr Shaikh told VINO.
Based on deliberations of the 2020 SFC report, a Commission of Inquiry has now been launched into the Project, "Leader of the Opposition and Member for the Eighth District noted the PO’s [Premier's Office] decision to put CIO in place and commended the Ministry for making such a decision stating that it is a good move," the report said.
Symbol of NDP Failure?
“To be honest with you we [are] not interested in [the] BVI, just a too corrupt country for us,” Mr Shaikh said in July 2019, in relation to his past experience with doing business with the Dr Smith led NDP administration.
The ICA Group CEO continued, “Back in December we wanted to start the operations… and hire people, and he didn’t budge. We reminded him that we will hire 45 people and he didn’t do it…. and in February he [Dr Smith] is calling and telling us how can we help, he’s just a bad man!” Mr Shaikh had told VINO while expressing anger at the situation.
Hon Penn in agreeing to a COI into the facility said, "there needs to be someone who can focus on bringing together issues such as business development and technology infrastructure and noted that it is something that he would support going forward," the SFC report detailed.