The auditor general’s report on the Sea Cows Bay harbour development project laid on the table in the House of Assembly on Thursday contains some very serious allegations: potential conflict of interest, poor financial record-keeping, and a lack of transparency with public funds.
The allegations against former government minister Julian Fraser (R-D3) are so serious that he told the House during the debate on the document that if they’re true, he deserves jail time.
“If the stuff in this report is correct, those two police officers could take me to Balsam Ghut right now,” Mr. Fraser said.
According to the opposition representative, however, the report is based on incomplete information. He laid the blame on the Auditor General’s Office, which he said didn’t contact the right public officers to get the missing information.
“If they spoke to the right people,” Mr. Fraser said, the report would have come to some different conclusions. He later added that the office has “a lack of knowledge on the functioning of government.”
But government-side legislators said there’s plenty of evidence that the project was being mishandled.
Archie Christian (R-at large) said it’s unfair for Mr. Fraser to say that the project didn’t need planning approval.
“The planning department says you should not do anything until you submit your plans,” Mr. Christian said. “You know that.”
He explained that while Mr. Fraser’s claim that the only work so far has been construction of piles may be technically true, the piles were meant to bulkhead the development, and the development never received planning permission.
Health and Social Development Minister Ronnie Skelton called the problems pointed out by the audit part of a trend.
“The member for the Third [District] has been doing these things and getting away with them for so long that he figures that this is the right way to do it,” Mr. Skelton said. “I think that is the problem.”
He said that as the Virgin Islands continues to be scrutinised internationally, transparency is even more necessary.
“Britain is looking at us. Everyone is looking at us, and we need to be transparent with what we do,” Mr. Skelton said.
Read the full audit report below:
See the Sept. 18, 2014 edition for full coverage.