Conflict Of Interest! CoI Report Says SCB Harbour Development Project Provided No Benefit To The Public

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By Sonje Greenidge, Journalist

Updated 10:35 AM AST, Thu May 19, 2022

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Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser.
(Photo Credit: Esther Durand/BVI Platinum News)

(PLTM) - Although the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) offers very recent examples of lack of transparency in Government functions, it also contains cases throughout the decades that demonstrates that integrity deficits have been an ongoing issue in the Virgin Islands.

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One such case is the Sea Cow Bay Development Project which the CoI report has advised should be investigated for possible conflict of interest. The intended purpose of the project was to develop the coastline while safeguarding marine life and other ecosystems, but the project remains incomplete.

According to the (CoI) report, between 2007 to 2011, $1,157,088 of public funds were expended on the Sea Cow Bay Harbour Development Project before the project was abandoned without any reasonable explanation.

Although over $1.1M was spent, the project provided no benefit to the public. Hon. Julian Fraser, who is the Third District representative, has suggested that the change of government in 2011 caused a halt in projects in the District, and that “some of the contracts on some of the projects within the district were issued to new contractors and some to supporters of the new government”.

In August 2014, the Auditor General prepared a report to discuss the implementation of the project. The report clearly stated that “the implementation of the project lacked transparency, and contracts were issued without relevant approvals. It also raised issues about related party transactions.”

The Sea Cow Bay project also pointed to instances of conflict of interests according to the CoI report. Hon. Fraser was appointed as Minister for Communications and Works again in 2007 after an election, and in 2008, “a parcel of reclaimed land at Sea Cow Bay was leased by the BVI Government to Earl Fraser, Hon Julian Fraser’s brother. In December 2010, an application to construct two jetties and 30 commercial moorings was made by Earl Fraser in respect of this land”.

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Two of the contractors selected for petty contracts for the bulkheading fabrication phase of the project were Kenneth Fraser and Earl Fraser (Fraser Incorporate), Hon Julian Fraser’s brothers. However, Hon. Fraser has denied selecting his brothers for the project and stated that the then Premier held the power to sign the contracts, which violates section 56 of the Constitution which states that Minister should have authority in his or her own Ministry. This power possessed by the Premier was referred to as “elected dictatorship” by Hon. Fraser.

Despite Hon. Fraser stating that his brothers went directly to the Premier to secure the contracts, Commissioner Sir Hickinbottom concludes that “I find it more than likely than not that Hon Julian Fraser was involved in (and, indeed, was instrumental in) the selection of the contractors, including his own brothers.”

Seven contracts were issued in December 2010 and January 2011, totaling just under $700,000, with work to commence in January and be completed within three months, for which a 10% deposit was made. However, only two contractors completed their work, and the monies paid to contractors who did finish their work, including Earl and Kenneth Fraser, was never recovered for the people of the Virgin Islands.

The CoI report also concluded that there were no efforts to secure approval for the project from the planning authority. There were no plans submitted for approval to relevant authorities and there was also the absence of a project manager to oversee the project. Further, land was reclaimed in Sea Cows Bay before approvals were granted without reporting the amount of land “without penalty”.

The Auditor General noted that “The manner in which the project was implemented, with the general absence of information in the Government’s record and the substantive exclusion of the accounting officer from the process, created the impression of a private undertaking that was being financed by the Government. This is further exacerbated by related party issues that were present in the development.”

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2 Comments
Hmm
This man needs to leave government offices
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Hold Them Accountable..
Why did the Governor go close to this man..Make it worse to swear him in.. The Governor playing games..
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