In what can be described as an unprecedented move, Dr. Kedrick Pickering is now swearing unequivocally for Neil Smith, the former financial secretary who is set to be held accountable for the mismanagement of the $7.2 million BVI Airways project.
This was revealed a few minutes ago on radio show, “Honestly speaking”with Claude Skelton-Cline.
Dr. Pickering said “the Neil Smith I know could never, under any circumstances, be in a position to benefit directly from Government’s finances. In other words, in BVI language, the Neil Smith I know could never be accused of thieving anything! Absolutely, I said that without any fear of contradiction.”
“Not somebody that I know, could never be involved in putting he hand in Government coffers for his own personal advancement, absolutely not,” he said.
The former Deputy Premier also stated openly, that Cabinet and by default, the predecessor Government should also be held accountable since there were aware of decisions going into the highly-controversial project.
As it relates to casting blame Dr. Pickering said “no one person can just spend Government’s money, it just can’t happen. There’s checks and balances in the system that prevent this. The financial secretary has to account to the Minister of Finance and he has to account ultimately, to Cabinet. So all of us have to be responsible”
Dr. Pickering is outraged that reports done by Neil Smith and Dr. D. Orlando Smith were not included in the conclusion of the audit.
“The Auditor general has a responsibility and rightfully so to ensure that Government finances are accounted for. So she has to do her job but I think it has to be said for the public record… from what I know, the former Minister of Finance (Dr. D. Orlando Smith) and Financial Secretary (Neil Smith), both submitted official reports, and as far as I know, those reports have not been published. I don’t know why”
He said that in order for the project to be looked at “contextually”, those reports must be reviewed, published and considered by the Auditor General and the general public.
Dr. Pickering stated that he is yet to read the Auditor General’s report and may never do so.
The document in question implicates Neil Smith, who allegedly overstepped his authority in making decisions outside of the counsel of Cabinet and then, Government of the Virgin Islands.
The 47-page report by the Auditor General, whose office is completely independent of political influence, lays out in detailed fashion all the details of a one-sided agreement between Government and BVI Airways, the failed attempt of BVI Airways to establish direct flights to the US mainland, the ill-advised actions of Government in relation to the BVI Airways operation, and the subsequent abandonment of the operation by BVI Airways.
The Auditor General concluded the document by calling for Neil Smith to be held accountable for his role in the failed project.
Though sitting on the Government at that time, Dr. Pickering made it clear that he had no direct dealings with the airways. He said “first and foremost, I never had any direct responsibility, in terms of ministerial oversight for that particular project. That was a project that was handled by the Ministry of Finance…that wasn’t under my direct responsibility.”
BVI Airways was set to offer direct flights from Miami to the BVI.