The Third Sitting of the Fifth Session of the Fourth House of Assembly officially returned to its original Head Quarters in Road Town Since March 2020 yesterday February 21st, 2023. The House of Assembly was relocated to the Save the Seed Energy Centre’s sporting facility in Duff’s Bottom due to spacing mandates implemented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The original Chambers in Road Town then went under renovations to upgrade the facility. In a report to the Standing Finance Committee, Clerk of the HOA Phyllis Evans informed the committee stated that some five contractors namely MacMillan Construction, Lawrence Wheatley Construction, Tarris Hill, Northam Construction, and Accurate Construction Limited conducted the construction upgrades to the House of Assembly.
Despite questions raised in the House of Assembly by opposition legislators and inquires by our agency, officials continue to withhold the total amount spent on rent for the duration of the time utilized at Save the Seed Energy Centre.
In speaking to members of the House of Assembly upon entering the newly remodeled chambers. A few shared what it meant for them to be “back home.”
Junior Minister for Trade and Economic Development and At-large Representatives Hon. Shereen Flax Charles said, “Well I’m very, very please and I think all of the heroes and shereos of the Virgin Islands would be very pleased. This is a historic building and we deserve to showcase our historic building. It also means we are back in our home base and I think that is very important for us as well as for the people of the Virgin Islands. So it’s a great occasion, I am very happy. Inside looks very nice and I want to thank the contractors for the great job that they have done.”
9th District Representative Hon. Vincent O. Wheatley ecstatically said, “I am so excited to be back in the new House of Assembly where we started out. I couldn’t wait to be here this morning. I was actually the first person to arrive. It is beautiful, it’s a job well done. I must commend the entire team, including Hon. Smith and his team for getting us back here, back home.”
3rd District Representative Hon. Julian Fraser in his opening remarks jokingly said, “Madam speaker I am sure that you, the deputy speaker, the clerk and her team would be pleased to hear me sat that I am happy to be here. I was skeptical about singing your praises until I got here. As a matter of fact, while I was coming this morning, when I got by the speed bump by Virgin Islands motors my car vehicle made a hard right to go into save the seed and I said no, they say it’s gonna be up here. So I came and I saw the place and I said well done.”
The Third Sitting of the Fifth Session of the Fourth session which is a continuation sitting began after 4pm yesterday Tuesday February 21st, 2023 after being scheduled for 10am. The matter of house sittings beginning late has been a continuous concern for past and present House Speakers as well as members of the community who believe the lateness of the House is unprofessional and discourteous to residents.
During the sitting audit reports on EZ Shipping and Government Consultant Claude Skelton-Cline contracts with the Government of the Virgin Islands were laid on the table of the House and debated by members.
Other Bills expected to be brought forward include the highly controversial Police Act 2023.
In regards to the consultancy contracted cabinet approved for Mr. Claude Skelton Cline. Premier Wheatley said, “These contracts for Claude Skelton Cline did come to Cabinet and I did support them. And I’m here to say to you that I believe that my support for these contracts was a mistake. And I believe that the former Premier made a mistake in engaging Claude Skelton Cline with these contracts,”
Skelton Cline was paid a combined total of a little more than $365,000 for the contracts.
Additionally, members discussed both EZ Shipping Contract and the consultancy contract of Mr. Claunde Skelton Cline. According to the report issued by Auditor General Sonia Webster, the payments made to EZ Shipping covered two months when the barges were not used.
The audit concluded that incorrect information was provided to the National Security Council (NSC) and Cabinet to facilitate approval of the contracts and support unearned payments of more than $700,000.
Some members did not debate or make comments on both bills including 6th District Representative Hon. Alvera Maduro-Caines.
The House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands is constitutionally due to be dissolved by March 12th, 2023, making way for the territory’s general election.