Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
Government has had to pay interest and fees in the region of $187,000, although nothing has been done to date with the $15M CDB rehabilitation reconstruction loan draw down that was acquired in December. Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Andrew Fahie said that this has him speechless.
The disclosure about the interest and fees were made during the Fifth Sitting of the Third Session of the Third House of Assembly by Premier and Minister for Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith, in response to questions from the Leader of the Opposition.
During the questions and answers, Hon. Fahie purported that the government spent around $200,000 in interest and fees, but that figure was rubbished by the Premier, who said that the amount was not that much and that the payment was necessary since government wanted access to the money to commence urgent rehabilitation work.
The Leader of the Opposition did not accept the $187,000 figure that was presented by the Premier, as he announced that during the Standing Finance Committee deliberations, the Financial Secretary (FS) told the House of Assembly that government already paid $200,000 plus in fees for the draw down amount thus far, in terms of the interest.
“The Premier is telling me now that the figure he is giving me...what created the difference between what the FS stated for us in this Honourable House, that is documented, versus the figure that you have given us. The figure that you have given us is almost $100,000 give or take less than what we were told during the Standing Finance Committee meeting, so could the Premier tell us which figure is true?” Hon. Fahie asked.
In response, Hon. Smith assured that his figures were accurate.
“The figures I have given came from the Ministry of Finance…What I can tell you is that these were checked and rechecked, and came from the Ministry of Finance.”
This led to Hon. Fahie announcing that he was confused by the matter. He told the House that he could not understand why government took the draw down when it was not ready.
“Why did we take a drawdown of $15M to pay now over $200,000 thus far in interest if we knew as a Territory that we were not ready to spend the money? Why did we take a drawdown of $15M and have the taxpayers already paying back $200,000 plus in interest? Why didn’t we just leave the loan and draw down when we were ready to use the loan?”
In response, the Premier explained, “Madame Speaker, this is like what I call the chicken and the expectation—the idea you could have taken either the money first and when the projects are ready you start the projects, or you get the projects ready and wait…There is a balance which you have to achieve. It was felt at the time when this money was received that the projects would have been ready and work would have started.”
This explanation did not seem to pacify the Leader of the Opposition, who declared, “Madam Speaker I am speechless...that we took a loan drawdown and we weren’t ready, and the taxpayers done pay 200,000 plus, and it seems like its ok. An explanation that is not worth salt...and that’s not correct business wise.”