New emerging information suggests that at least two top members of the National Security Council (NSC) were blindsided by the announcement that EZ Shipping had been approved to provide static barges for border security at thousands of dollars daily.
Former Police Commissioner Michael Matthews said he and former Governor Augustus Jaspert were taken by surprise when Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie announced that the barges belonging to EZ Shipping had been approved to serve as radar platforms to aid in border security last year.
His surprise, he explained during his hearing in the ongoing UK backed Commission of Inquiry before Commissioner The Right Hon. Sir Gary Hickinbottom on June 8, was because the proposal from the shipping company had been turned down initially.
"It took me completely by surprise because up until that point; there had been no conversation that I could recall or within the National Security Council (NSC) around the use of static barges or any proposal. I recall that NSC did not agree to the EZ Shipping proposal when it was brought to the emergency meeting, and from there, it was tasked that other potential providers of the territory should be assessed. And my recollection at the time was it was for both barges and charter boats, and when that went back to the Joint Task Force, Customs took the lead for looking at other barge owners in the territory, and we took the lead for approaching the chartering industry again to look at those options (as radar platforms)," he said.
The former Commissioner said the barges in question "were effectively deployed before the National Security Council had agreed the final solution to this."
He added, "The NSC meeting that I attended where it was announced that these barges had been deployed caught both the Governor and myself out because the debate hadn't taken place in NSC about whether we were or were not going to take up the EZ Shipping offer. By the time that debate happened, the barges were already out there."
He said neither he, nor the then Governor, who is responsible for security was consulted, and they had no involvement in negotiating the contract.
"NSC as a body did not know either," he said, adding that the decision was made by the Ministry of Finance after the company reduced their offer from $17,000 to $14,000 per day.
"I don't know who actually made the decision. It was the Premier [and] Minister of Finance who announced it at the NSC to, as I say, to the surprise of the Governor and myself," he remarked.
The government paid $360,000 for one month's worth of service for two barges, much to the public's dismay.
The government had taken heat for not accepting the U.K offer of the Navy to patrol the borders. After the offer was turned down, former Governor Jaspert took a decision to call in the Navy anyway.