As soon as possible, the government should keep its promise to provide a comprehensive account of how it used the donations it received after Hurricane Irma.
If it doesn’t, other potential donors and lenders could get cold feet at a time when the territory badly needs money for the recovery effort.
We understand that the months after the storm were chaotic, and that tabulating contributions must have been difficult. But now that more than a year has passed, leaders must track down all donations and explain in detail how they were used.
So far, few specifics have been released, and they have been issued in a manner that suggests the possibility that no comprehensive record of donations currently exists.
For example, days after Irma the BVI Tourist Board began advertising “government’s official Irma relief fund.” It took this newspaper some four months of requests to multiple senior officials to be told recently that this effort netted about $116,000, none of which had been spent as of late last month.
In the meantime, in early October a reporter asked Premier Dr. Orlando Smith at a press conference about hurricane relief funds. In response, his office released a vague spreadsheet listing some $16 million worth of contributions, many of which came from the United Kingdom.
However, many details were missing, and when this newspaper asked for more information, officials retracted the donor names included in the spreadsheet and promised to provide comprehensive information during a press conference on Oct. 16.
That press conference hasn’t happened yet. The most recent promise suggested that it would be held by next Monday, but as of yesterday afternoon’s press deadline it had not been scheduled.
We hope that the press conference comes very soon, together with documentation that explains what donations were received and how exactly they were used. If there are gaps in the available information, leaders should candidly say as much and explain what they plan to do to try to track down the missing details.
Donors need to know that their contributions were used for important projects that will benefit the territory. Without full accountability and transparency, it is unlikely that many more donations will arrive anytime soon.