Ninth District Representative Vincent Wheatley and Territorial At-Large Member Carvin Malone have heaped criticism on the Auditor General’s report on contracts for static marine platforms between the Andrew Fahie-led Virgin Islands Party government and EZ Shipping in 2020.
The two former ministers called the report one-sided and suggested that it unfairly tarnished the reputation of EZ Shipping’s owners and could destroy their livelihood.
EZ shipping was paid more than $2 million for use of three of its barges – Midnight Stone, Midnight Czar and Midnight Chief – as radar platforms between September 2020 and January 2021. But according to Auditor General Sonia Webster, payments were made to EZ Shipping that also covered two months when the barges were not used. Webster’s report noted that records show that use of the radar platforms ceased in November 2020.
The audit concluded that incorrect information was provided to the National Security Council (NSC) and Cabinet to facilitate approval of the contracts and support unearned payments of more than $700,000.
In the meantime, Wheatley argued that representatives for EZ Shipping were never interviewed for the AG’s audit report.
“We’re not talking about $700, [No], $730,000. You want us to believe that somebody got paid that money and nothing was [done], for no service?” Wheatley asked.
Wheatley said he had a serious problem with this and argued that some persons end up in trouble for non-payment of National Health Insurance (NHI) and Social Security. He further argued that persons should not rush to judgment after only hearing one side of the situation.
“You could do a report and one side saying that this company got all this money, and their barges were parked up? We have to be careful,” argued Wheatley who, along with Malone, were executive members within the Fahie
administration that approved these contracts.
Meanwhile, Malone said there was something mystical about saying that EZ Shipping had three months of engagement even as their barges were not being used.
“The directions of Sir Gary Hickinbottom
seem to have been well carried out by the Auditor [General] and she needed not to have taken instructions but they were done anyway and they were given to the Governor,” Malone said.
He added: “With all of the reports, let us be balanced in these. The other side of the story is important.”