REMARKS BY HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
PREMIER OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
28 JANUARY, 2021.
CONTRACT SIGNING FOR NEW NATIONAL EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTRE (NEOC) BUILDING
Good day and God's Blessings to everyone.
I am happy to see us moving forward with this project to construct a new fit-for-purpose building which will house the Department for Disaster Management (DDM) and the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), two crucial components of our disaster management apparatus.
We are well aware of our exposure due to our geographic location when it comes to the threat of hurricanes and similar disasters.
And as I said in the Budget Address in November, the DDM has been a guardian angel to the Virgin Islands during these times.
Season after season this team of public officers has help to keep us safe through providing information to help all of us ‘get ready and stay ready’ as they did during Hurricane Irma.
I must pay homage to the staff of the DDM for their selfless service to our Territory. In times of danger, they leave their families and loved ones to come out and keep us safe.
As we all know, when Irma struck in 2017, the then DDM building was severely battered by the Category 5 force winds, and our DDM personnel became seriously exposed to the hazards.
Yet still, they stuck to their roles and helped us through the disaster.
The NEOC also plays a major role in coordinating services during and after disaster events.
It is absolutely important that our emergency personnel are kept safe and that they are able to function during these crucial periods, and hence upon taking office in February 2019, your Government made this project one of our priorities.
We promised the people of the Territory that we would ensure the funds are allocated to have our public officers at DDM working in a fit-for-purpose and resilient accommodation.
Today, with the signing of the contract to construct a modern NEOC building, your Government has ensured that we fulfilled our promise to the people of the Virgin Islands.
The project includes the demolition of the existing structure, construction of pile foundation and support systems, construction of three-level reinforced concrete building including all mechanical, electrical, plumbing and landscaping.
The building has been design with a focus on sustainability, resiliency, energy efficiency, and care for the environment.
Our public officers who work at DDM deserve a better working environment and by constructing this new facility, better they will get.
Of course, it is your Government’s policy that public infrastructure must embrace green and smart technology so that we ensure that we are doing our part to protect the environment.
As such, amendments in 2021 to some of our laws such as our Customs Act will be forthcoming to act as a catalyst for our transition to green and clean energy to help protect our environment.
I look forward to us continuing on this path because as a small island developing country, we are on the frontline of climate change and rising sea levels – so, we must set the example and show that sustainable development is possible in harmony with the environment.
The contract value is nine million, eight hundred and three thousand, two hundred and fifteen dollars and fifty-three cents ($9,803,215.53)
The funding for this project comes from our hurricane recovery loan made possible by the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Loan.
I must say thank you to the CDB, not only for making this funding available but for working with your Government to introduce innovative strategies for ensuring that these funds can play a more meaningful role in the local economy, as compared to what was obtained in the past.
I congratulate the Contractors in this Joint Venture of Tandem Development and D & B Heavy Equipment Services Ltd for presenting a successful bid, as you will work together over the next 520 days to bring this long awaited project to fruition.
The CDB has worked with the Ministry of Finance Projects Unit, Dr. Drexel Glasgow and his team, to develop new policies that allow local businesses to access opportunities to participate in these projects, while at the same time maintaining their high levels of transparency, accountability, and value for money.
The fact that the BVI continues to be able to access millions of dollars, CDB funding is proof positive that everything is above board in how your Government is responsibly managing these funds and that we are performing according to international standards.
If we were not doing this, we would not be enjoying the confidence of the Caribbean Development Bank and this is important as the CDB has the option to pull the plug anytime we breach its standards.
But, may I remind us that our philosophy in the BVI is that of BVILOVE – Loving Our Virgin Islands Every day. Whatever our vocation and whatever the task that we are doing, BVILOVE is in there and it must be in there.
And so too, as we construct this building, it must be done with BVILOVE. BVILOVE for the quality of work. BVILOVE for the finance management. BVILOVE for the project management. When we work with BVILOVE we will deliver transparency, accountability and value for money.
I am therefore confident that all the parties that have a hand in delivering this project, from the Ministry of Finance Projects Unit which is responsible for the Project coordination to the contractors, architect and project manager and every single worker on this project, will do right by the taxpayers of the Virgin Islands who is the real client.
Before I close, I must also say a special thank you to the officers at the Ministry of Finance and its Project Unit for the hard work they have been doing to get the various outstanding projects off the ground, and for ensuring that what is paid for is delivered, and for engaging with the CDB to make it possible for our Virgin Islands people and local businesses to better benefit from the economic activity that will take place during the life of these projects.
Our public officers work in the background, and often people tend to overlook the role they play in the management of the Territory and in getting things done, and getting them done with the highest level of professionalism, transparency and accountability.
Our Public Officers are the wind beneath our wings and we are thankful for their dedication to duty.
I look forward to the commencement and successful completion of this project within time, with quality, and within budget.
And I look forward to us reassembling on site to welcome DDM and the NEOC into their new home when it is finished.
May God guide every hand that is involved in this project and may he keep you safe.
In BVILOVE, I thank you.