Photo Credit: Clifton Skelton/BVI Platinum News
Despite the Elmore Stoutt High School (ESHS) perimeter wall being a project which incurred a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) was ostracised from the management and execution of the project, in some cases as a result of directives of Minster of Education, Hon. Myron Walwyn. This was exposed by the Auditor General’s Special Report into the controversial structure.
According to the document, which highlighted a number of discrepancies and red flags in the execution of the project, the Finance Ministry was seemingly snubbed from the project from the planning phase.
According to the audit, “The project was planned and managed in its entirety by the Ministry of Education and Culture,” later highlighting that, “The Ministry of Finance’s Project Management Unit was not engaged, despite Cabinet’s requirement that the Ministry should involve this Unit to assist with the management of this project.”
Instead, the Myron Walwyn-led Edcation Ministry opted to have one individual perform all the technical aspects and supervision of the project.
The report further revealed that the Education Ministry breached the Public Finance Management Regulation 181, which requires the Government to obtain a list of pre-qualified contractors from the Finance Ministry in the event that the tender process was waived, as was done for the wall project.
There was no consultation done with the MoF’s Project Management Unit for the selection of contractors. Instead, Minister Walwyn provided instructions on which contractors were assigned work and the amount.
The Auditor General also pointed out that, “Of the 70 contractors used on the project, 40 did not have construction trade licenses.”
Management and Money Matters
Cabinet’s instructions continued to be disregarded in the management of the project when the Education Ministry failed to involve Finance’s Project Unit in the management and supervision of the project, as was stipulated when approval was given for the project.
The report indicates that, “Management of the project was outsourced by the Ministry to an independent contractor in 2014 without competitive solicitation of vetting by the two Government agencies named above”—one of which was the Finance Ministry.
“The Treasury records indicate that the Project Manager was paid a total of $265,110.17 in 2016 for this project and others under the Ministry of Education and Culture.”
According to the Auditor General, “The project in its entirety was estimated to cost $828,004. Despite this, no request was made to the Ministry of Finance for an independent subhead/subledger to facilitate prudent management of the funds.”
Instead, this mammoth funding was added to the school rehabilitation subhead, which meant that “there were no controls to limit the total spending to the approved amount or to alert the Ministry when spending limits were being reached.”
This further resulted in payments above the authorised amount being made, “possibly without the Ministry being aware of the excess.”
In making conclusions on matters regarding the exclusion of other Government agencies—such as the Ministry of Finance—the Auditor General stated, “The project gives the appearance of an agency that sought to avoid the procurement requirements that have been established to secure value for money on Government projects.”