Russell Harrigan, Chairman of the BVI Tourist Board
Photo Credit: Gordon French/BVI Platinum News
Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Dr. Orlando Smith has announced several measures being introduced to address concerns relating to financial accountability at the BVI Tourist Board (BVITB).
The Premier, who is also the Minister of Tourism, in a statement in the House of Assembly said one of "the most pressing and critical challenges facing the new Board of Directors of the BVI Tourist Board is that of getting its fiscal house in order".
"This matter is one of the key priorities I raised with the Chairman on his appointment. Members would all recall the very spirited discussions we had on the matter of the Board's finances during the last Standing Finance Committee meeting, reviewing the 2012 appropriations. I am therefore pleased to report to this Honourable House that the Board has taken a number of decisions which have resulted in considerable progress being made to address this long standing situation," Premier Smith stated.
According to the Premier, there has been the implementation of a process of regular financial reporting to the Board of Directors by the Financial Comptroller and the appointment of a dedicated team of two former Financial Comptrollers to complete the preparatory work required so that the Auditor General can complete the Board's audits for 1998 to 2011, this year.
"Work commenced on this project on May 8, 2012 and the Board has already received it first progress report. The Board has been in communication with the Auditor General on an agreed way forward to complete the Board's outstanding audits. The Board has taken a decision to seek the assistance of the Ministry of Finance to re-establish a proper Record Management System at the Board," Premier Smith stated.
Among the new measures disclosed by the Premier is the establishment of an annual cash flow/disbursement schedule in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance. The Premier said that this has resulted in the Board becoming current with its vendors and creditors locally and overseas, which is particularly important in rebuilding the Board's credibility in the marketplace.
Premier Smith stated that there is also the implementation of new policies to govern the use of cellular phones, travel and the use of credit cards.
"These policies and others have led to a much greater sense of accountability at the Board," Premier Smith stated.
He said that the Board is currently finalizing its three year budget submission for 2013 to 2015, which will include a detailed marketing programme covering all existing and new markets.
During the 2012 Budget debate, At-Large Representative, Hon. Archibald Christian expressed the view that tax payers in the BVI are becoming more conscious about the way monies are being spent by the Government and called for more financial accountability from the BVITB.
Hon. Christian said that he was very disappointed when legislators were not able to get financial statements from the Tourist Board from 2007-2011.
"We are not sure how this country was marketed over those last four years. We are not sure how much money was spent in tourism and how the funds were disbursed based on our needs to ensure that we remain competitive in a very competitive industry," Hon. Christian stated.
The At-Large Representative had pointed out that every single country in the world, even though they are embroiled in conflicts of war, is being marketed as a tourist destination.