Premier and Finance Minister, Hon. Dr D. Orlando Smith
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
Another embarrassing moment for Premier and Finance Minister, Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith, who was forced to apologize for providing false information to the public.
This stemmed from his live broadcast on March 16, where he spoke to certain payments that were in progress on behalf of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF).
In defense of his government, Premier Smith in that broadcast spoke to cheques which he said were at the Treasury Department for pick up for some time now.
The comments were made hours after Governor John Duncan announced his decision to exercise his constitutional powers to force government to provide an additional $800,000 to the force to fight crime.
However, last evening, Sunday, March 19, the government issued a press release stating that the Premier's comments were made based on information provided to him by the Ministry of Finance at that time. The information was inaccurate.
Financial Secretary, Mr. Neil Smith explained that it is standard practice for the Ministry of Finance to continuously audit information that is transmitted, and it has been discovered that some of the payment information presented to Premier Smith from the Ministry was inaccurate.
“I am pleased that our internal processes were able to identify the discrepancies between what we communicated and what was actually obtained. We remain committed to ensure that all information and advice provided from the Ministry are accurate and factual," the Financial Secretary stated.
He added, "I apologise to the Minister of Finance for this error, and on behalf of the Ministry of Finance, hereby take full responsibility for providing the inaccurate information that was previously reported."
Meanwhile, Premier Smith said, “I sincerely regret and apologise that some of the information which I reported to the people of this Territory on March 16 was inaccurate. It is very responsible that the FS and his team take ownership for the inaccurate information which they provided. I am assured that this should never happen again.”
He added that very importantly, he candidly discussed the matter with the Governor and updated him.
Premier Smith said, “As Premier and Minister of Finance, I always endeavour to report to you honestly, truthfully and accurately."
According to the government's press release, in this regard, and in order to clarify the facts and avoid any misrepresentation and miscommunication, it should be noted that only some of the cheques that the Premier mentioned were actually available at the Treasury for collection.
The cheques that were readied for the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force in December 2016 and were available for the pickup as of the evening of March 16, 2017 relate to the purchase of six (6) interceptor vehicles and repairs; and maintenance and purchase of equipment of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force Marine Unit.
The other cheques that were referenced in the statement which relate to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, but were in various stages of processing by agencies within the Governor's group or awaiting complete documentation were the upgrade to the CCTV camera system; purchase of law enforcement equipment from TEC Supply; renovation to cells at the Road Town Police Station by J&J Construction; and sanitary ware for cells.
Mr Neil Smith , Financial Secretary
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
"It should be further noted that in all of the cases referenced in the statement, permission was granted since late 2016 for the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force to proceed with processing payments and the funds were made available to effect the payments. However, as explained above, some are still in various stages of processing," government stated.
Mr. Smith said that he and his team at the Ministry of Finance remain committed to working with all ministries and departments to facilitate their approved spending in accordance with the protocols and processes.
The Ministry of Finance and the Treasury have been working with the Governor's group and the RVIPF to ensure that the processes are timely competed and the funds disbursed as a matter of priority.