Education Minister Sharie de Castro has cautioned that steps need to be taken to separate the concept of consultancy from the stain and stigma that has been attached to the word in the BVI.
The minister was speaking in the House of Assembly (HOA) where lawmakers debated an audit report on contracts between the Andrew Fahie
-led government and Claude Skelton Cline.
de Castro pointed out that she had stated her disagreement to the continuation of Skelton Cline’s contracts with the government on multiple occasions because she felt there were serious questions over whether work had been done on the contract and whether there had been value for money provided.
“This report articulates some very concerning matters, but overall, I believe it speaks to a legitimate process and system that needs to be used in the correct way so that we could get the ultimate outcome that we want when we use consultancies as a means to provide services to the government,” de Castro stated.
“Consultancy has become a bad word in the Virgin Islands
,” she added. “When persons in the community hear us speak of the potential of hiring consultants, persons begin to question whether it is something that is needed and necessary.
The Education Minister said she felt there had been instances in the past where persons, based on the information and the facts presented to the people, seriously questioned the intentions and the value for money and the impact of individuals who had previously been hired through consultancies.
de Castro noted, however, that while she felt consultants are important, there are valid mechanisms that allow businesses and individuals to provide services to both government and private entities that really produce impact, especially in specialised areas.
But because of the track record that the BVI has had with consultancies, de Castro said it has put a stain in the minds of people.
“So, I want us to do whatever is possible as members of this honourable House to remove the stigma that is currently attached to the word consultancy,” de Castro said. “[We should] and ensure that our people are confident enough to believe that we would ensure that we go through the requisite processes to make sure that the individuals who would get an opportunity to serve in these roles would be persons, of course, who would understand very clearly that they’re coming to do a job.”
She expressed that lawmakers should further ensure that measures similar to a graded examination should be employed to determine whether consultants are able to move to the next level in consultancies with the government.
“We have to use that measure, and it matters not who the individual or the business is, but if it is that after that exam has been given, we see that individuals have not passed or met the mark, then we have to ensure that we do not create additional opportunities for failure, especially when it comes to the government’s purse,” de Castro said.