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MDC ‘shut down’

Montserrat on Pause

 by Bennette Roach

Distant view of Marine Village

Distant view of Marine Village

Untitld-1Premier the Hon. Don(aldson) Romeo has confirmed in a brief interview with TMR Editor that upon his Government’s initial findings, faced with ‘fires’ and emergencies upon taking office following General Elections in September last year, he acted immediately and collaborated with the UK Department for International Development (DFID) in halting or suspending operations/works (not the functioning) carried on by the Montserrat Development Corporation (MDC).

The Premier said that the eventual decision was made even more urgent following reports (audits) that showed that the MDC was operating in shambles where little or nothing seemed to have been conducted in a proper manner, negating the goals of the MDC as the engine of growth for Montserrat.

The MDC was created since 2007 and financed by DFID, (initially 2007 – 2010) with a goal to establish a viable and effective development corporation that would allow Montserrat to achieve economic, social and environmental sustainability, through the effective promotion and co‐ordination of public and private sector development activities. Two additional no cost extensions were approved between 2010 and 2012 – Due to delays in implementation of phase 1 of the Little Bay town master plan and infrastructure works.

Following a Sustainable Growth Plan (SGP) for Montserrat, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and a well put together Business Case. (There was the infamous Charrette of October 2011) Montserrat was set on a path to achieve financial independence by 2020. (see: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrat-holds-high-level-charrette/.)

Much has taken place since December 2011 and TMR has been reporting from early as things started to go wrong. By May 2013, we reported already “…would find a Premier not in the mood to discuss issues relating to procurement procedures…” see: “Premier misfires on procurement” at: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/premier-misfires-on-procurement-gom-loses-appeal-in-court/ . And immediately following: “Opposition leader Romeo questions MDC procurement practises” at: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/opposition-leader-romeo-questions-mdc-procurement-practises/.

Our reports continued resulting in a shutdown in communication against the media, particularly TMR. Our complaints went unnoticed as it seemed to be in keeping with the government strategy from top to bottom. The MDC communicated nothing to and with no one, in the face of DFID observing, noting and requesting that information be provided to the public. For this and other reasons TMR suggested the firing of CEO Browne who was appointed in June 2013, now as it appears ignoring corporate bylaws.

This present position of suspension confirms a report by MNIAlive.com that, “In response to concerns raised about the Montserrat Development Corporation, the Government of Montserrat and DFID have taken a number of steps including replacing the MDC board and suspending the DFID programme while a fundamental review of the Corporation’s work takes place.”

In that report it also quoted a DFID spokesman as saying, “Given the nature of DFID’s support for the MDC – covering operating costs including staff salaries – it is expected that DFID will honour non-discretionary payments, but all programme work should be paused and no new work initiated.”

Premier Romeo reported that his Government is to report to DFID towards the end of this month its plans and suggestions to move forward. He agreed that he thought nothing was wrong with the structure as set out in the Business Case but, in the face of how things have progressed there was a need to “go and come again.”

Responding to the accusation that he has not yet reported on his plans to take forward his promise to move Montserrat forward, the Premier admitted that he was overwhelmed by the problems they have had to deal with on coming into office. He said he will be reporting to the people in due course as the government has been and currently under pressure in preparing for budget talks with DFID which was due to begin next week. “That”, he said, “created serious challenges…”

Meantime amidst public speculations, that especially as highlighted coming out of reports on procurement and other matters dealing with projects and the whole MDC, the eventual shut down of MDC, there is the belief that if the previous administration was re-elected, Montserrat would have been shut down and HMG take direct control.

It was reported that “A series of concerns have been raised with DFID regarding the adequacy and effectiveness of procurement systems and controls within the Government of Montserrat (GoM). Specifically, these have been raised and considered in:
• A review of procurement systems by the Financial Secretary’s office within the GoM.
• An independent assurance audit delivered by RSM Tenon (now Baker Tilly LLP) (May 2013).
• A criminal investigation undertaken by the Royal Montserrat Police Service, supported by DFID’s IAD Counter Fraud Section (April 2014).
Following these reviews further concerns were raised regarding GoM procurement practice and then came The July 2014 Fraud Investigation Review.

We reported earlier that the Business Case highlighted, “A Fiduciary Risk Assessment (FRA) of GoM financial systems and processes was concluded in early 2011 and a first Annual Statement of Progress completed against the FRA in February 2012.” It said: “These revealed that the overall fiduciary risk is substantial and that the corruption risk is moderate.”

Untitled-1

Bathroom/ Shower room at Little Bay

The note in the review which said, “Our work was limited in scope as we were unable to obtain a full comprehensive list of all GoM procurements since 1 April 2013 despite requests for this information before, during and after the investigation,” is calling for even more investigations.

The proposal after the conclusion: “The level of risk to which DFID funding is exposed through GoM procurement systems, as currently designed and operated, is significant and unacceptable. It reports weaknesses from Governance, Strategy, Departmental tender committees (DTC), Government of Montserrat internal audit, Control environment, Conflicts of interest, Evaluations, Tenders, Audit trail, Segregation of duties, Due diligence, Contract management, Fraud risk, resulting in:- “the weaknesses identified at each stage of the procurement process indicating that the main fraud risks are, nepotism, collusion, bid rigging, and the payment of bribes and kickbacks.

See more pics at: https://www.facebook.com/203080105851/photos/a.10152722395695852.1073742003.203080105851/10152722396095852/?type=1&theater

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Montserrat on Pause

 by Bennette Roach

Distant view of Marine Village

Distant view of Marine Village

Untitld-1Premier the Hon. Don(aldson) Romeo has confirmed in a brief interview with TMR Editor that upon his Government’s initial findings, faced with ‘fires’ and emergencies upon taking office following General Elections in September last year, he acted immediately and collaborated with the UK Department for International Development (DFID) in halting or suspending operations/works (not the functioning) carried on by the Montserrat Development Corporation (MDC).

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The Premier said that the eventual decision was made even more urgent following reports (audits) that showed that the MDC was operating in shambles where little or nothing seemed to have been conducted in a proper manner, negating the goals of the MDC as the engine of growth for Montserrat.

The MDC was created since 2007 and financed by DFID, (initially 2007 – 2010) with a goal to establish a viable and effective development corporation that would allow Montserrat to achieve economic, social and environmental sustainability, through the effective promotion and co‐ordination of public and private sector development activities. Two additional no cost extensions were approved between 2010 and 2012 – Due to delays in implementation of phase 1 of the Little Bay town master plan and infrastructure works.

Following a Sustainable Growth Plan (SGP) for Montserrat, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and a well put together Business Case. (There was the infamous Charrette of October 2011) Montserrat was set on a path to achieve financial independence by 2020. (see: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrat-holds-high-level-charrette/.)

Much has taken place since December 2011 and TMR has been reporting from early as things started to go wrong. By May 2013, we reported already “…would find a Premier not in the mood to discuss issues relating to procurement procedures…” see: “Premier misfires on procurement” at: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/premier-misfires-on-procurement-gom-loses-appeal-in-court/ . And immediately following: “Opposition leader Romeo questions MDC procurement practises” at: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/opposition-leader-romeo-questions-mdc-procurement-practises/.

Our reports continued resulting in a shutdown in communication against the media, particularly TMR. Our complaints went unnoticed as it seemed to be in keeping with the government strategy from top to bottom. The MDC communicated nothing to and with no one, in the face of DFID observing, noting and requesting that information be provided to the public. For this and other reasons TMR suggested the firing of CEO Browne who was appointed in June 2013, now as it appears ignoring corporate bylaws.

This present position of suspension confirms a report by MNIAlive.com that, “In response to concerns raised about the Montserrat Development Corporation, the Government of Montserrat and DFID have taken a number of steps including replacing the MDC board and suspending the DFID programme while a fundamental review of the Corporation’s work takes place.”

In that report it also quoted a DFID spokesman as saying, “Given the nature of DFID’s support for the MDC – covering operating costs including staff salaries – it is expected that DFID will honour non-discretionary payments, but all programme work should be paused and no new work initiated.”

Premier Romeo reported that his Government is to report to DFID towards the end of this month its plans and suggestions to move forward. He agreed that he thought nothing was wrong with the structure as set out in the Business Case but, in the face of how things have progressed there was a need to “go and come again.”

Responding to the accusation that he has not yet reported on his plans to take forward his promise to move Montserrat forward, the Premier admitted that he was overwhelmed by the problems they have had to deal with on coming into office. He said he will be reporting to the people in due course as the government has been and currently under pressure in preparing for budget talks with DFID which was due to begin next week. “That”, he said, “created serious challenges…”

Meantime amidst public speculations, that especially as highlighted coming out of reports on procurement and other matters dealing with projects and the whole MDC, the eventual shut down of MDC, there is the belief that if the previous administration was re-elected, Montserrat would have been shut down and HMG take direct control.

It was reported that “A series of concerns have been raised with DFID regarding the adequacy and effectiveness of procurement systems and controls within the Government of Montserrat (GoM). Specifically, these have been raised and considered in:
• A review of procurement systems by the Financial Secretary’s office within the GoM.
• An independent assurance audit delivered by RSM Tenon (now Baker Tilly LLP) (May 2013).
• A criminal investigation undertaken by the Royal Montserrat Police Service, supported by DFID’s IAD Counter Fraud Section (April 2014).
Following these reviews further concerns were raised regarding GoM procurement practice and then came The July 2014 Fraud Investigation Review.

We reported earlier that the Business Case highlighted, “A Fiduciary Risk Assessment (FRA) of GoM financial systems and processes was concluded in early 2011 and a first Annual Statement of Progress completed against the FRA in February 2012.” It said: “These revealed that the overall fiduciary risk is substantial and that the corruption risk is moderate.”

Untitled-1

Bathroom/ Shower room at Little Bay

The note in the review which said, “Our work was limited in scope as we were unable to obtain a full comprehensive list of all GoM procurements since 1 April 2013 despite requests for this information before, during and after the investigation,” is calling for even more investigations.

The proposal after the conclusion: “The level of risk to which DFID funding is exposed through GoM procurement systems, as currently designed and operated, is significant and unacceptable. It reports weaknesses from Governance, Strategy, Departmental tender committees (DTC), Government of Montserrat internal audit, Control environment, Conflicts of interest, Evaluations, Tenders, Audit trail, Segregation of duties, Due diligence, Contract management, Fraud risk, resulting in:- “the weaknesses identified at each stage of the procurement process indicating that the main fraud risks are, nepotism, collusion, bid rigging, and the payment of bribes and kickbacks.

See more pics at: https://www.facebook.com/203080105851/photos/a.10152722395695852.1073742003.203080105851/10152722396095852/?type=1&theater