Premier Andrew Fahie refused to provide information about the BVI Ports Authority’s finances on Tuesday, citing ongoing negotiations with a commercial bank. (File photo: CLAIRE SHEFCHIK)

Asked during a House of Assembly sitting on Tuesday about the BVI Ports Authority’s finances, Premier Andrew Fahie refused to provide most of the requested information, claiming that it is sensitive given the current climate of the agency’s operations.

Opposition Leader Marlon Penn asked first about the BVIPA’s financial position as of March 31, including the balance in all its bank accounts and the recurrent expenditure of all of its locations inclusive of salaries, rent and other expenses.

Mr. Fahie, however, was not forthcoming.

“It is important that honourable members understand that the financial information of the BVIPA is indeed sensitive information of a company engaged in commercial activities. If any member wishes for me to share this confidential information, I can do so privately,” he said. “But this information should not become public to avoid undermining the ports’ competitive advantage in the environment in which they operate. Their financial information forms part of the territory’s competitive advantage and our trade and livelihoods. They are also in discussions with a commercial bank in relation to the existing debt.”

Mr. Fahie did not provide further information on these negotiations.

Salary info

In response to Mr. Penn’s request for salaries, rent and other expenses, Mr. Fahie again refused to answer.

“The member is asking for salaries and other commodities I don’t want to bring to the House in general,” he said.

To support his refusal to discuss the BVIPA’s account balance and salary and rent information, Mr. Fahie quoted sections 17.1 and 18.6 of the HOA Standing Orders.

The first states, “A question shall not be asked seeking information about matters which are in their nature secret or confidential,” and the second states, “A minister may decline to answer a question if the publication of the answer would in his opinion be contrary to the public interest.”

‘Extreme difficulty’

Mr. Penn said he found an “extreme difficulty” in the premier invoking the two standing orders. Because the BVIPA is a government-owned entity, he claimed, the funds are public information and should not be kept private.

“Does the port do annual audits? Are those audits public?” he said. “I don’t understand why this honourable House cannot get information on the ports’ current financial information.”

Mr. Fahie assured Mr. Penn that “no one is trying to hide anything” and that the information would be provided once the BVIPA completes negotiations with the commercial bank mentioned in his previous answer. “The standing order does allow for those areas when they do appear to make sure that it protects whatever negotiations at the time,” Mr. Fahie said. “As soon as [the BVIPA] is finished with its negotiation, I will gladly bring that [information] to this honourable House.”

He added, “It is best that certain information be held just a little bit until we get over that hump.”

Accounts payable

Mr. Fahie did answer another part of Mr. Penn’s question, which asked for figures for all accounts payable to vendors, including money owed to central government.

The premier said that the accounts payable are shown in a table provided to HOA members — which has not yet been provided to the media — and that the total owed to vendors and the government is $9,700,575.95.

Mr. Fahie provided paper documents to Mr. Penn that he said included a full breakdown.


Following a lunch break, Mr. Penn also asked the premier about salary cuts made at the BVIPA, including whether directors received pay cuts as well as employees; the annual amount paid to directors; and what the BVIPA would have saved if it had made salary cuts for the directors.

The premier said the pay cut for BVIPA employees wasn’t in effect anymore and that $488,063.50 was the amount government collected from cuts made in the past months.

The authority reduced the hours of its hourly employees to ease the financial strains caused partly by the Covid-19 global pandemic and partly by $20 million in investments for the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park under the previous administration, he added.

“The investment to date has not been fully realised [in] the projected returns,” he said. “If the cash resources were available, there would be no need to reduce salaries or increase port fees at this time.”

BVIPA directors did not receive pay cuts, because they are not paid by the hour and are permanent employees, he added.

Annually, the cumulative total of the salaries for the managing director, three directors, eight managers and CEO at the pier park is $1,487,600, according to the premier. If a similar cut were made to their salaries, the government would have saved $267,082.48, he said.

Warm layups

Mr. Penn also asked the premier about revenue collected from cruise ships during their recent warm layups in the territory.

Mr. Fahie said that the sum billed to Royal Caribbean up to February of this year was $69,571.47. Of that amount, $30,015.84 has been paid.

The BVIPA is awaiting documents to bill cruise ships for the month of March, he added.

“It provided the authority with much needed revenue,” Mr. Fahie said while explaining the government’s decision to allow cruise ships to do warm layups and technical calls in the territory.

Asked how the warm layups have financially benefited taxi drivers, vendors at Crafts Alive Village, pier park merchants, beach vendors and others, Mr. Fahie admitted that there was no direct benefit. Those businesses “would not have generated revenue” as during normal times because disembarking from the cruise ships on warm layups is not allowed, he said.

The purpose of the warm layups, he said, was for the territory to benefit from berthing fees, provisioning and catering, and transporting crews who arrived via air.