At a signing ceremony on Tuesday to ink a $30.7 million contract to extend the territory’s cruise ship pier, Premier Dr. Orlando Smith said he doesn’t mind the continued scrutiny the project has received to date.
“As minister of finance, it gives me comfort that this project has been well scrutinised to ensure transparency and value for money of the people of this territory,” he said.
Last Thursday, the House of Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee delivered the latest bout of scrutiny about the project.
The opposition-led PAC tabled an “interim report,” making public hundreds of pages of internal documents, correspondence and interviews with some participants who were involved with the project’s early stages. The report states that a PAC investigation revealed “numerous apparent irregularities and questionable circumstances” and that PAC members faced repeated difficulties in obtaining information about the project from the Ministry of Finance and other officials.
“The committee’s examinations thus far reveal that the escalating cost of the project from a total of $12 million dollars to in excess of $30 million dollars, excluding the landside development, seemingly is excessive, unsubstantiated and/or insufficiently justified based on the information provided to the committee thus far,” the report states.
The PAC also asserted that the “process for the engagement of consulting and contracting companies seems not to have been properly documented and gives rise for further investigation.”
But in an impassioned two-hour speech before the House of Assembly last Thursday, Communications and Works Minister Mark Vanterpool defended government’s handling of the pier project. He asserted that the PAC report wasn’t straightforward about why “red flags were raised.”
“If there are red flags, we need to bring them out clearly so we can talk about them,” he said, adding that he wanted to know why the report only included three interview transcripts if the PAC interviewed 13 people. “What happened to the other 10? They didn’t say anything that was important? If you’re giving appendices, give all or none. Something is wrong there. I don’t understand.”
See the April 24, 2014 edition for full coverage.