Prospect Reef has been sitting unused since it was devastated by Hurricane Irma, but the government now owes more than $171,000 for employees’ unpaid wages over nearly a year. (File photo: GENEVIEVE GLATSKY)

Government owes Prospect Reef employees $171,834.78 for wages from August 2018 to the present, Premier Andrew Fahie revealed last Thursday at the House of Assembly in response to questions from Third District Representative Julian Fraser.

The expenditure was “inadvertently” omitted from the 2019 budget, Mr. Fahie said, adding that “all efforts are being exhausted” to pay the workers by the end of August.

“A review of the organisational operational structure of Prospect Reef is currently being undertaken in order to determine a more economical way forward,” he added, but did not clarify further when Mr. Fraser asked him to.

He did not explain what the employees have been doing at the resort, which was destroyed by Hurricane Irma and has been in ruins ever since.

In response to another question from Mr. Fraser, Mr. Fahie also gave an update on civil service increments.

Since 2012, the previous administration only paid performance increments in half, he explained, citing a circular issued that year by the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Human Resources.

“No further details were shared on the issuance of a later payment for the 50 percent that was withheld,” Mr. Fahie said.

Increments are now being paid for the years 2016 and 2017 in accordance with a June 5 Cabinet decision to approve them inclusive of all salary arrears from Jan. 1, 2017, according to the premier.

These increments were calculated “based on the current salary of the qualifying public officers, which should take into account any previous adjustments to salary based on payment of increments in prior years,” he said, adding that performance appraisals were not required. He also said Cabinet agreed to pay a “two-incremental salary increase” to the base salary of all eligible public officers “in light of the challenging conditions that public officers faced in 2017.”

So far, he explained, only the 2016 increments have been paid because his administration originally budgeted for around $4 million, but when Cabinet investigated whether this amount reflected “any previous adjustments to salary based on payment of increments in prior years,” members found that this updated figure actually amounted to around $8 million.

Pier park, constitution

In response to further questions from Mr. Fraser, the premier also touched on issues related to the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park and the planned constitutional review.

He revealed that the tenants of the pier park owe $448,428.06 from June 2018 to present and that the new BVI Ports Authority board is reviewing the matter.

He also said that he plans to call an informal HOA meeting in late August to discuss the territory’s next constitutional review before announcing a time frame.