British Virgin Islands

Sunday, Sep 20, 2020

Too much red tape! Govt's business grants not being released because accounting officers fear 'going jail'

Too much red tape! Govt's business grants not being released because accounting officers fear 'going jail'

Monies from government’s COVID-19 grants to local businesses are not being released fast enough because accounting officers employed to the public service have grown fearful of making an error that could cause them to be prosecuted.
This is according government minister, Vincent Wheatley who has responsibility for the Social Security Board — the agency that is financing the $6.5 million grants to micro, small, and medium-sized businesses.

“The problem we are experiencing in Social Security is part of a bigger systemic problem. Farmers are hurting, fishermen are hurting, people can’t pay their mortgages, can’t pay rent, can’t buy food but the money is locked up in various government coffers,” he explained.

Minister Wheatley said the government’s system is set up in a way that places emphasis on transparency, accountability and good governance.

This, he said, leads to heavy ‘red tape’.

“When you are telling me that unless I cannot account for every single penny, something is wrong with that. Every single elected person can tell you they have heard an accounting officer, ‘I ain’t going jail’. These officers are scared to act. All the red tape that is designed for an account for the money; it is not designed to account, it is designed to stop money from flowing. You paralyze the whole system.”

Wheatley was responding to statements from government consultant and talk show host, Claude Skelton Cline who said the procedures to acquire a business grant is frustrating entrepreneurs.

Addressing the issue on his radio programme, Honestly Speaking on Tuesday, Skelton Cline said he has come to understand persons have become discouraged by the application process because it is “quite cumbersome”.

He said his remarks are based upon feedback from some business owners.

“What they are saying is it’s almost easier to go the bank and try to borrow money than to try to get this funding that is supposed to be a grant. The thing seems to be layered with so many hoops to jump through, that persons have already been through what they are going through, their businesses are taking on water until some of them can’t take on any more water,” Skelton Cline said.

He continued: “It (the grant) has not gotten to the people at the speed and the rate which is consummate with the needs of the people and it raises tremendous questions about our system, about our bureaucracy about what is taking place.”
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