STATEMENT BY HONOURABLE KYE RYMER
MINISTER FOR TRANSPORTATION, WORKS AND UTILITIES
FOURTEENTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
UPDATE ON OUTSTANDING INVOICES
Mister Speaker, I rise to provide this Honourable House with an update on the many Outstanding Invoices that I have been faced with settling since taking office since March 2019.
Mister Speaker, on 21st July, 2020 I briefed this Honourable House on the exorbitant outstanding bills that I met at the Ministry. During that statement, I also made it clear that I instructed my team to remain laser focused and do whatever is necessary to get to the bottom of these invoices, with a view to finally compensate vendors for the products and services which they have provided.
Today, I would like to provide an update on the accounts that have been settled to date and those that we propose to settle within the near future.
So far, the Ministry has processed a total in the amount of Six Hundred Forty-Five Thousand One Hundred and Seventy-Three Dollars and Thirty-Eight Cents ($645,173.38) of outstanding invoices for services rendered more than ten years ago. These balances include the settlement of invoices from multiple vendors for the following products or services:
- The supply of concrete in the amount of Two Hundred Fifty-Four Thousand and Sixty-Two Dollars ($254,062.00);
- The supply of construction materials in the amount of Twenty-Seven Thousand Four Hundred Thirty-Six Dollars and Thirty-Eight Cents ($27,436.38);
- Hiring of heavy equipment in the amount of One Hundred Thirty-Two Thousand Three Hundred and Fifty Dollars ($132,350.00);
- Barge Services for transportation of equipment and materials to the Sister Islands in the amount of Ninety-Seven Thousand and Six Hundred Dollars ($97,600.00); and
- The amount of One Hundred Thirty-Three Thousand Seven Hundred and Twenty-Five Dollars ($133,725.00) for various other services that have been rendered to the Government of the Virgin Islands.
Additionally, Mister Speaker, I am currently faced with having to settle outstanding invoices from an old Water Purchase Agreement which dates back to 2010. The pending outstanding payment to this vendor is to the tune of Eight Hundred and Fifteen Thousand Seven Hundred and Forty Seven Dollars and Ninety Cents ($815,747.90). It is unfathomable that we would have an outstanding bill for a decade long on something as critical and essential to life as water.
Mister Speaker, before the end of this year, we hope to process more unsettled invoices that are in excess of Two Million Dollars ($2,000,000.00).
Mister Speaker, I cannot stand here today and report on this matter without mentioning the effect that these age-old expenses have had on the Ministry’s infrastructure development and maintenance plans. In order to settle these outstanding invoices, many projects are now delayed, as funding is no longer available to proceed with the execution of some of these works. Delayed projects include, road improvements, embankment stabilisation, drainage and water optimising, just to name of a few. It is our hope to have this matter behind us by the end of the year, so that we can remain focused on developing the Territory’s infrastructure to international standards.
It is an injustice to anyone who, having provided goods or services to any consumer – especially to the Government – and having met the required standards of quality for the goods or services to be accepted, for payment to be delayed for such an inordinately long period. Such delays affect the cash flow of these companies. It impedes their ability to meet their own commitments and to pay their own bills. It hampers their growth. It affects their employees. It can cause them to go out of business.
I want, on behalf of this Government, to apologise to those businesses that were affected by the untimely settlement of these legitimate payments.
Mister Speaker, while this was not a foreseen task, it is critical that the Government of the Virgin Islands regains good rapport with the business community. Therefore, we continue to work feverishly to rebuild and maintain a professional and trustworthy relationship with the vendors within the Territory.
The importance of having a healthy relationship based on respect and trust is particularly important given that the Government, through the various agencies, has planned an elaborate but achievable programme for construction of public infrastructure to stimulate, support and reenergize the local economy in the wake of COVID-19.
The Honourable Premier has spoken extensively on this previously.
The Government of the Virgin Islands is very committed to our local businesses and our local business community. We want them to do more than survive; we want them to thrive. As a Government, we are firmly committed to ensuring that local businesses and our Virgin Islands people benefit from the economic activities that take place on our shores.
We are creating the opportunities for our local businesses. We are creating the environment for them to access these opportunities, with transparency, accountability and value for money being key considerations.
And therefore, I wish to reassure our goods and service providers, that they will be treated with the courtesy, respect and professionalism they deserve.
Mister Speaker, permit me to reiterate the economic, ethical and moral importance of settling debt. Governments have a responsibility to the business community to ensure that there is a fair and even exchange of goods, services and compensation for what was received. We cannot continue to acquire a good or a service and not settle our debt in a timely manner.
This is a gross disservice to our vendors and, as a Government we must do better than this. This Government intends to lift the bar in how we conduct the affairs of the people.
Mister Speaker, I appreciate your indulgence, in allowing me to update this Honourable House on this very critical matter.