After months of speculation, Governor John Duncan announced Tuesday night that he won’t order a commission of inquiry to investigate the cruise pier project, but he called for the government to bolster transparency and reform its procurement procedures as a matter of urgency.


The announcement came in response to callsfrom the opposition-led Public Accounts Committee to investigate alleged abuses in the development, many of which centred around the early bidding process.

“I see no useful purpose in commissioning a further inquiry into the port development project,” Mr. Duncan stated.

The PAC and Auditor General Sonia Webster alleged that officials involved with the development sidestepped proper procurement practice, wasted public money, ignored tendering and transparency rules, and gave rise to concerns about conflict of interest.

The governor noted, however, that the roughly 700-page PAC report relied on statements from witnesses who were no longer involved with the project at the time of the committee’s probe.

“Witness statements by those no longer actively involved in a project are of questionable value and cannot be judged to offer an accurate view on what was currently happening,” he explained. “Indeed, in many cases such statements amount to speculation.”

Furthermore, he said, “neither the auditor general’s nor the Public Accounts Committee’s reports deal with the final and successful tender, which met the terms of the financial protocols, and which led to construction being taken forward.”

Mr. Duncan said his decision was also guided by recent reports by the Caribbean Development Bank and an independent consultant commissioned by his office to review the concerns about the project.

Those reports will be made public, he said, adding that they both call for reforming the Virgin Islands’project procurement process.

“The Caribbean Development Bank’s report makes 13 separate recommendations to strengthen the existing procedures to bring them into line with best practice in other island economies,” Mr. Duncan said. “The independent expert consultant confirms these recommendations, and both agree on the need for the Virgin Islands to enact a standalone Public Procurement Act.”


See the March 19, 2015 edition for full coverage.