Premier Andrew Fahie recently wrote to the United Kingdom minister of overseas territories to complain about Governor Gus Jaspert’s handling of a report on BVI Airways, but Mr. Jaspert quickly wrote back claiming that the premier’s allegation was based on factual errors.
On Tuesday evening, 284 Media reported that Mr. Fahie told Baroness Elizabeth Sugg, the UKOT minister, that Mr. Jaspert had failed to bring the auditor general’s report on the defunct airline to Cabinet within the timeframe required by law.
The same day, however, the Governor’s Office responded with a different story.
“The report has been submitted to Cabinet and it is now a matter for the premier to arrange for it to be laid in the House [of Assembly] at the next available sitting,” claimed a statement issued by the Governor’s Office on Tuesday night.
The statement also said that Mr. Jaspert submitted the report to Cabinet on April 22 and that he “discharged his duties fully in line with the timescales as set out in the Audit Act 2003.” According to the office, discussions around the report were delayed in Cabinet by a day as Covid-19 issues were prioritised.
The Governor’s Office received the report on Feb. 7, and the Audit Act 2003 requires the governor to cause the document to be laid on the table in the House of Assembly within three months — in this case by May 7, the office wrote.
“The report was submitted to Cabinet within timescales that allowed for that as per normal arrangements,” the office added. “The Governor’s Office [wishes] to see this happen as soon as possible.”
Mr. Fahie did not respond to a request for comment, but the Governor’s Office confirmed that he wrote to the OT minister regarding the matter.
The premier’s letter, however, included “factual inaccuracies” and Mr. Jaspert “has written back to the premier to ensure a correct understanding of the facts,” the office stated.
Seeking $7.2 million
During a November press conference, Mr. Jaspert said the public would be provided with the “special value-for-money report” within three months after he receives it.
The report probes the government’s role in the BVI Airways deal that cost taxpayers $7.2 million.
The airline promised to provide direct flights between the Virgin Islands and Miami in exchange for an “investment” from the government, which was to be paid back if the airline was sufficiently profitable. But no flights materialised even though the government funnelled $7.2 million to the airline in 2016 and 2017, and angry residents called for answers.
After years of first denying problems and then deflecting the blame for them, former Premier Dr. Orlando Smith acknowledged shortly before last year’s election that the BVI Airways deal was a failed investment.
In 2018, Dr. Smith’s government hired Martin Kenney & Co. Solicitors — a VI-based law firm that specialises in investigating fraud — to probe the deal. That investigation has continued under Mr. Fahie’s government.