Churches Benefited! CoI Report Says Former Premier Made 'Unilateral' Decision To Increase COVID-19 Grants

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By Sonje Greenidge, Journalist

Updated 11:50 AM AST, Fri May 13, 2022

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(PLTM) - The Attorney General (AG) Hon. Dawn Smith submits that “grant awards were adjusted within the Premier’s Office without any effort to keep within the approved budget”.

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This according to information published in the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) report. The AG, according to the report, stated that “the Premier [Andrew Fahie] unilaterally changed the policy and the criteria for payment”. This claim is supported by Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom who agrees that while the safe reopening of religious institutions, the initiative “required very little funding to achieve”.

How did the funding for churches unfold?

On 8 July 2020, Cabinet considered Memorandum No 236/2020347, submitted by the Ministry of Finance which among other things, focused on the social impact of persons not being able to attend church.

The Virgin Islands society places a high value on Christian worship, and as a result, the memorandum highlighted the need for the safe resumption of religious gatherings. It outlined that the distribution of finances would directly assist religious institutions which were “adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis to prepare themselves for re-opening”.

To this end, a $1 million package of support for daycares, private schools and religious organisations, which was to be disbursed through the SSB grant and via the Premier’s Office.

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After this decision was made by government, Cabinet approved an additional $1,392,818 to be granted via the programme.

However, 75 of the 94 religious institutions had not even applied for assistance. The report also stated that “of the 19 churches that applied, 16 had membership of below 200. No criteria were disclosed to the Auditor General that were applied to effect these changes; but the uplift appears to have been made without consideration of the financial effect of shut down, the costs of re-opening or the number of members, the nonapplicants of course not having even made an application for a grant”.

Similarly, while religious institutions experienced significant decreases in attendance during the height of the pandemic, at the time the programme had been administered, most of the religious institutions had regained the pre-Covid incomes. The report was also clear that there were no reasonable justifications for why the Premier allocated more funds to the institutions than they had applied for, and more alarmingly, more than Cabinet had approved.

A committee was also established to oversee this programme and to monitor its structure and internal operations. This included audits and the monthly provision of reports and updates to Cabinet. However, the report noted that “the absence of information (which was denied to the IAD373) left the IAD Director unable to prepare any analysis or perform any audit of the Religious Institutions Etc Programme”.

The social institutions that were to benefit from programme were required to sign a declaration which require them to ensure that funds were solely used for the intended purpose and that they would “remain in compliance with the COVID-19 health and safety protocols for re-opening”.

There was also a provision that if funds were used for other purposes, the Government would have to be reimbursed.

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However, the CoI report notes that the grants awarded to various religious institutions were inflated by 662% where the committee’s recommendation for disbursement $185,772.67 was increased to $1,415,000, but $1,554,000 was disbursed.

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18 Comments
Amazingly
It seems Head Coach's goal was to buy everybody's support and submission. Thank God for those who are not for sale for they can now see this situation clearly and not sit and find excuses for why a young, supposedly educated man could destroy our country like this. The sky was the limit when it came to wasting and giving away the people's money while the populous suffer through high inflation, inferior infrastructure, a medical institution running on dregs and an ignored educational system. Jesus though is stronger than Satan and sin. Satan to Jesus must bow. We call on his Holy Power to deliver his people out of the wilderness and to throw down the stronghold of wickedness in high places in our country.
Like · · 6w ago
11 Likes
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Today'S Quiz.
Who's most greedy and heartless, Politicians or Churches ??
Like · · 6w ago
4 Likes
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Wondering Mind
Churches
Like · 6w ago
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Simple As A-B-C
Monies received from corrupt or illegal means, or person is not legit and should be returned.
Like · · 6w ago
1 Like
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How Many?
94 Religious institutions, Really?
Like · · 6w ago
2 Likes
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Crystal Clear
Oh thats why we were asked to pray for the Pemier and not the PEOPLE? TIME FOR THE CHURCHES TO PAY TAXES!!!!!!
Like · · 6w ago
20 Likes
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Wondering Mind
I agree. Churches should pay tax
Like · 6w ago
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Sue Said It
Religion and politics have no business mixing together. My grandmother attends Methodist church in Sea Cows Bay stated if they are on the list she is pulling out of said church.
Like · · 6w ago
12 Likes
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Keep It Simple..
They all need to refund the treasury, any thing from crooked **** ain ligit
Like · · 6w ago
21 Likes
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Rubber Duck
The Emperor **** did as he liked. None of those now claiming innocence did anything to stop him. Now , like Rome did, we have a new Emperor, put in place not by the people but by the Praetorian Guard.
Like · · 6w ago
21 Likes
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Wikipedia
Just in case you all dont understand. Conclusion. The Praetorian Guard had a noble purpose to protect the life of the emperor and his family. However, once they tasted power, they became corrupt with greed and opportunism. As a result, the Praetorian Guard was despised by the Romans and feared by their emperors.
Like · 6w ago
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Crystalis
That was applied for the loan not the Lord.
Like · · 6w ago
2 Likes
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Crystalis
The churches name should be published, those who applied for the Lord and gave a report on the funds usage fine. But those who did not apply and took it should be made to pay it back
Like · · 6w ago
16 Likes
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Wolves In Sheep Clothing
A society with churches more than supermarkets can fall into this .. God is not mocked None of the intercessors were able to discern the person daubling in witchcraft ? Sad time for the BVI the apple cart turn up
Like · · 6w ago
10 Likes
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Well...
Churches give back the money!!
Like · · 6w ago
21 Likes
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PTL
The money been in the devil's hand too long.
Like · 6w ago
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Ok
Churches, do the right thing and give back the ill gotten money. It is tainted money. Give it back. Lets see which one will step up to the plate.
Like · 6w ago
13 Likes
OHOOOO
You dirty lowdown Scoundrels.
Like · · 6w ago
11 Likes
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