Photo Credit: Clifton Skelton/BVI Platinum News
The audit report into the Cruise Pier and Land Side Development is not scheduled to be brought to the House of Assembly (HoA) at its next sitting, as was promised by Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith.
On a number of occasions in the past, the Premier had committed that the audit report into the controversial $85 million project would be brought to the House; however, this has not come to fruition.
He had indicated that it would be laid in early December, and after this was not done, he made a further promise on December 28 that it would be laid at the next sitting.
"It's going to be at the next sitting. It's coming. It's going to come before elections,” he had assured.
However, perusal of the Order Paper for the sitting that is scheduled for Tuesday, January 15, shows no indication that the report will be laid.
Opposition Member and Second District Representative, Hon. Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull is expected to press the Premier on the reason for the report not being presented to the House as yet.
In the questions he will be directing to Dr. Smith, Hon. Turnbull is asking, “What is the status of the audit report on the Cruise Ship Pier and Land Side Development? When would it be brought to this Honourable House?”
He is further probing whether it will be laid before the HoA is dissolved, inquiring, “If the answer is yes, when? If the answer is no, why not?”
It is not yet known when the House of Assembly will be dissolved.
The controversial project which was executed under the BVI Ports Authority (BVIPA), has been at the centre of corruption allegations from the onset. The $85 million project had an initial budget of some $50M.
The Ports Authority is under the purview of the Ministry of Communications and Works, which is led by Hon. Mark Vanterpool.
Former developer of the project, Mr. Hugh Darley, who had threatened to take the government to court over the project, had alleged that the government utilized cheap building materials and cut back on the number of buildings in the pier park, but ended up paying more than what was expected at the start of the project.
Darley had claimed that the project was to be built for $45-$50 million. He further alleged that some $10 million was overpaid to contractors and others on the marine works portion of the project.
Following mounting public pressure, Premier Smith in January 2016 announced an independent audit into the pier park project.
KPMG, an internationally-recognized firm, was given a $194,000 contract to conduct the audit.
They commenced the audit on the project in September 2016, and was expected to produce the findings within three months. However, there it has been marred by several delays.
The auditors had also complained that the Ports Authority had not been very forthcoming with information when requested.