In a recent Facebook post, former Education Minister Myron V Walwyn has responded at length to statements looming about the construction of the 2018 perimeter wall project at the Elmore Stoutt High School, which took place under his leadership.
Walwyn stated, “On Saturday I spent part of the day hanging with a few friends that I hadn’t seen in a while. We talked on numerous topics and of course the Wall topic came up. Their comments being spurred by a recent article on one of the online news sites. Admittedly, I am frustrated that the management process for such projects within government is not more widely understood and is often ignored maybe for the sake of succinct or possibly sensationalized reporting. Be that as it may, I took the time and explained to them how the project was executed and what my role as then minister was.
Unfortunately, this well-intended process that could be viewed as nefarious, especially when evaluated outside of context, has become the source of confusion and misrepresentation. I explained to my friends that the concept of utilizing petty contracts and works orders on government projects is a principle that been applied for decades in the BVI and proceeded to list a number of projects that were conducted in this manner over the years. Additionally, it should be understood that the current process is a lawful one. It is provided for in the Finance Management Act and cabinet has the authority and did approve the project the project to be done in that manner.”
Process of petty contracts
Speaking to the process in petty contracts Walwyn said, “In principle and given our own upbringing, the idea of trying to involve the citizenry in the economic opportunities of the country was the impetus, I believe, for the process of petty contracts and works orders to be used. However, I have seen where this particular process would benefit from re-evaluation and eventual reform where necessary. This, with an objective to “shun the very appearance of evil” and in the interest of good governance.
With that, I stand firmly as I have since this project that there was absolutely no dishonesty on my part as minister and I believe that I can say, without fear, there was none on the part of the team that aided in executing the project on behalf of the ministry of education.”
people got paid that did no work on the project- “Misleading information”
Drawing reference to the conversation that took place with community members. The businessman addressed the public notion that persons were paid who did not work on the project. Walwyn said, “One gentleman raised an issue of people getting paid that did no work on the project. This is something I have heard before and I can categorically say that this is misleading information at best. From the information provided to me which I know to be true, there were 4 contractors that received mobilization to purchase their supplies just before the government took the decision to halt ALL government projects to assess its cash flow position. The project did not resume up to the time of the audit exercise and so these 4 contractors, through no fault of their own, were not given the opportunity to execute their portion of the project up to the time of the assessment. This is not the same as saying that contractors received money and did no work. To my knowledge, these contractors remain committed to upholding their contractual obligation.”
Government Policy; no trade license, good standing etc. required for contracts under 10K
Speaking on the matter of contractors having no documentation, Walwyn stated, “What about the 40 contractors that did not have documents, one of the gentlemen asked. I explained that it has been government ministries’ policy, whether right or wrong, that when a contract was under 10k no trade license, good standing etc was required. Those persons who have done contracts with government under this amount would be able to verify what I said. This was the policy being followed by the ministry’s team. This is the policy that other colleague ministers and I met in place throughout government and I am sure that up to time of the Commission of Inquiry this was still the case. If this is in fact the wrong policy being used then it is a systemic flaw that needs to be corrected urgently but to suggest that there was a departure from what obtained with respect to the project is completely incorrect.”
“PROCEDURAL FLAWS YES! CORRUPTION/DISHONEST ABSOLUTELY NOT!”
In speaking to the conclusions of the recently conducted COI, Walwyn said, “Many of the conclusions reached by the Commission of Inquiry on this matter respectfully do not enjoy the support of the evidence that was led during the interviews. There was nothing that remotely resembled dishonesty or corruption that emerged from the testimony of the witnesses who worked on the project – Procedural Flaws Yes! Corruption/Dishonesty Absolutely Not! The procedural flaws in no way rise to the level of criminality. As such, to even suggest such a thing is unfounded and manifestly unjust. Again, I do agree with some of the recommendations and see the need to change some of our current practices and gladly support and vow to do whatever I can to assist in this regard.”
“I served with honesty and I worked extremely hard every single day”
In conclusion Walwyn passionately wrote, “With the support I received from this community, I served you honestly and I worked extremely hard every single day. It is therefore disheartening to think that anyone would suggest that; at any point during my 7-year stint as an elected official, I knowingly approached my duties having mal-intent. I can say without reservation that any such suggestion is without merit and lacks any sound basis.”