Hon. Julian Fraser has boasted about his successes as the 3rd District Representative and as the Minister for Communications and Works.
Photo Credit: Gordon French/BVI Platinum News
A report has uncovered `gross mishandling´ of an application made by residents over a decade ago to reclaim an area of the seabed adjacent to their property, but criticized former Minister for Communications and Works, Hon. Julian Fraser for his handling of the Sea Cows Bay Harbor Development.
For over a decade some residents of Sea Cows Bay have been awaiting permission to reclaim an area of the seabed adjacent to their property, but agencies have cited the confusion over a Sea Cows Bay Development Plan as one of the reasons for the delay.
A Special Report by Complaints Commissioner, Elton Georges tabled in the House of Assembly last week found the entire situation unacceptable and called on the Government to apologize to the applicants and offer compensation for the protracted delay.
The Report noted that Sea Cows Bay sits in the Third District and the Representative for the District had politically, extremely strong personal interest in bringing into being an extensive habour development project.
"In his drive to achieve this goal he bypassed and was allowed to bypass the established system for carrying out public business," Georges stated.
He pointed out that the system is based on the principle that the Minister, having listened to advice and consulting Cabinet, if required, decides what is to be done.
According to Georges, the Minister is then expected to communicate the instructions to the Permanent Secretary who sees to their execution within the authorized legal and financial frameworks and accounts to the Minister accordingly.
"Former Permanent Secretaries recall that in relation to the Sea Cows Bay reclamation; however, the Minister personally assumed what was normally the Ministry officials´ task. For example he personally dealt with the firm in commissioning the Smith Arneborg Architects Planning concept and was clearly perceived by officers as having personal charge of producing a Sea Cows Bay Development Plan. Civil Servants backed off because this was considered `the Minister´s baby´, as it were," Georges stated.
Georges´ report stated that this could only happen because the Governor in Council enabled it and the Permanent Secretaries abandoned their responsibilities.
Georges found that the issues with the development plan should not have prevented Government from handling the application made by the private citizens.
An application form was submitted in June 2000, for permission to reclaim an estimated 2 acres of seabed adjacent to the adjoining plots.
However, Georges found that on September 26, 2001 the then Executive Council deferred the application pending the completion of an approved development plan for the Sea Cows Bay area.
Georges in his report stated that he attempted to request a copy of the Sea Cows Bay Development Plan. He pointed out that the Chief Planner on October 25, 2011 indicated that the Planning Department was unable to find any forward planning documents relating to Sea Cows Bay.
Further, the Chief Planner indicated that the Department received no application nor therefore approved any applications for reclamation in the Sea Cows Bay area.
Georges report indicates that the Department was unable to locate a planning concept prepared by Smith Arneborg Architects in January 2003 via the Ministry of Communications and Works.
However, Georges said that in October 2002, the Hon.Fraser was Minister for Communications and Works and took a paper to Executive Council captioned Sea Cows Bay Habour Development.
The Land Reclamation Project at Sea Cows Bay a short distance from the Valarie O. Thomas Community Centre
Photo Credit: Clifton Skelton/BVI Platinum News
Hon. Fraser had also dealt with the residents´ application as the Minister for Natural Resources in 2000. Georges noted that the Paper requested that the document prepared by Smith Arneborg Architects Limited for the development of the Sea Cows bay Harbour Development be adopted in principle.
Georges noted that the paper, incidentally, breached the guidelines laid down for Council papers.
"For example, there was no consultation with the Town and Country Planning Department or the [then named] Ministry of Finance and Economic Department shown; yet the Council went on to take far reaching decisions," Georges pointed out in his report.
In the course of the report, mention is made of a report submitted to the OECS by Smith Warner International for a scoping exercise on proposed developments in Sea Cows Bay and Brandywine Bay. This was mentioned by Conservation and Fisheries Department in February of this year, which also indicated no copy of the Sea Cows bay development plan.
During his investigations, Georges said he spoke with several past and present officials of the Ministry of Communications and Works, Ministry of Natural Resources, Conservation and Fisheries Department and the Town and Country Planning Department.
Georges said he perused papers having to do with the Sea Cows Bay harbor Development, but attempts to interview or obtain written information from the Member of the Third District were unsuccessful.
Falling Through the Chasm : Special Report # 9.