Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
Central government and statutory bodies have expended some $33M on consultancies in the past five years. Additionally, government and statutory bodies have paid out over $8M to legal firms that conducted business with government during the same time period.
Information provided last month showed that that under central government, in 2012 $3,862,384.55 was expended; 2013 - $5,255,004.72; 2014 - $4,404,504.19; 2015 - $1,123,162.04; and 2016 - $2,188,186.98; a total of some $16.8M.
Meanwhile, under statutory bodies, in 2011 $199,869 was expended; 2012 - $2,456,059.62; 2013 - $2,554,848.98; 2014 - $5,972,909.51; 2015 - $2,626,286.20; and 2016 - $2,403,650.56; a total of $16.2M.
The statutory bodies covered under the figure provided include the BVI Ports Authority, BVI Health Services Authority, National Bank of the Virgin Islands, Financial Services Commission, H. Lavity Stoutt Community College and BVI Airport Authority.
Additional to the consultancies, government and statutory bodies paid out over $8M to legal firms. Premier and Finance Minister, Hon. Dr. Orlando Smith said, "I can confirm that based on information provided, the total amount paid to private legal firms and individuals providing legal services engaged or contracted by my government between December 2011 and now is $6,286,920.86."
In relation to statutory bodies, Premier Smith said, "The total amount paid to private legal firms and individuals providing legal services engaged or contracted by statutory bodies between December 2011 and now is $2,580,733.26."
Meanwhile, the Premier also disclosed that based on information provided by each of the statutory bodies, only the Social Security Board and the BVI Health Services Authority contracted or otherwise engaged an agency or individual to act as a collection agent on their behalf.
He said that between 2011 and 2015, the BVIHSA paid a total of $5,798.06 to Zolfo Cooper and J.E.M Services Limited for their services; and between 2011 and 2016, the Social Security Board paid a total of $109,177.90 to Orion Law. "This agreement ended in June 2016," he added.
Premier Smith noted that no agency or individual was contracted or otherwise engaged on behalf of the government of the Virgin Islands to act as a collection agent.
The Premier then defended the monies spent.
"...As you are aware, the hiring of consultants is part of the normal course of business for any organization where services may be required that cannot be sourced from within the organization, or for which expert advice and/or skills may be required," he stated.
The Finance Minister said, "This government is no exception and therefore is required to engage such services to ensure efficiency in its operations from time to time."
He also stood by the decisions as it relate to monies paid out to legal firms.
"There are many reasons where it is necessary for private legal firms or legal persons to be engaged by government, such as in legal aid matters, assisting in High Court matters where this is thought necessary by government's legal counsel, and in the negotiation of contracts on behalf of government," Premier Smith noted.
He said more recently, the protocols agreed with the United Kingdom required that for capital projects with a lifetime value above 5% of forecast annual recurrent revenue, independent expert advice such as legal, accounting, financial, economic and environmental should be sought.