A Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report done in February 2014 stated that Vanterpool along with project consultant Claude Skelton Cline received three proposals to develop the cruise port. The report said this was done “through a process that lacked transparency and [one that] did not involve any form of public tender or open solicitation for this multi-million-dollar public project. These were assessed by the former consultant and forwarded to the minister for decision.”
Addressing the Commission of Inquiry (COI) where he appeared to give evidence on the project, Vanterpool said he did not recall any bids or invitations being done at the time. Instead, he insisted that the three bidders – CaribInvest, Trident Development Enterprise LLC, and Tortola Port Partners – were simply able to make presentations to the government because there was an understanding at the time that the BVI was seeking to develop its cruise tourism industry.
“The government made a policy that went forward to develop the cruise pier, and three persons made a presentation made to the government. Now, that may not have been the exact procurement process that should have been followed, but that is what happened,” Vanterpool further told the COI.
The Cruise Pier Project had a final reported cost of $82.9 million which represented more than $30 million above the initial estimate. Vanterpool later claimed that the estimate was incomplete.
In explaining his decision to hire Skelton Cline as a consultant for the project, Vanterpool told the COI he simply needed a ‘focus’ person he could trust to execute the project in the way that he wanted.
He agreed that the former consultant was hired through a petty contract amounting to $96,000. Vanterpool said he did not have to take that to Cabinet to get a tender waiver, since the contract value was below $100,000.
The former Works Minister further said he hired Skelton Cline despite knowing he had no background or expertise in port development.
“I appointed a person to work closely with me as minister to be entirely focused on this development and advise me as minister as to the person that we were able to seek advice from – engineers, the cruise ship companies, the various persons. As Minister – and I felt responsible to make sure this was happening – I would not have the time to do it,” Vanterpool explained.
He denied that this was to the detriment of the BVI Ports Authority (BVIPA) who claimed he and Skelton Cline sidelined them. Vanterpool told the COI that as the minister responsible for the project, it was his prerogative to execute the policy of the government in the direction that he chose.
The former minister also denied that there was any impropriety in selecting Skelton Cline as a consultant, even though Skelton Cline had just run as a failed candidate on Vanterpool’s winning political party, the NDP.
He further suggested that he believed the execution of project benefited when Skelton Cline returned as his government’s appointee for Managing Director of the BVIPA.