The MDC-Little Bay-Gun Hill fiasco

Part 12/2019 (Contribution)

When will we face facts about the MDC’s “failure” from 2007 to 2014?

BRADES, Montserrat, August 28, 2019 –  Yes, MDC – Little Bay – Gun Hill fiasco. In case anyone doubts the need for a Charter of Good Governance and a Development Partnership MoU with the UK Government, he or she needs to face the MDC fiasco facts. Fact one, in 2011 – 12, DfID for cause concluded that the Montserrat Development Corporation had failed:

“ . . . the MDC has not performed to date as had been expected. The diagnosis ofthis failure is clear – too broad a remit given the staffing constraints, over ambitious targets and expectations, lack of clarity on how much independence and authority MDC was to be given, poor governance arrangements, a micro-managing Board of Directors and inadequate performance from the original implementing consultants.” [DfID 2012 MDC Business Case,[1] p. 4]

Notice, carefully, DfID’s evaluation of MDC by 2011 – 12: “MDC has not performed to date as had been expected . . . failure.”

Yes, Fact 2: DfID put in another $5+ millions and tried to help pull MDC out of the morass.

Sadly, Fact 3: that too failed, and by 2014 we saw whistle-blowers, investigations and a funding lock-off.  (All of that stuff that we have forgotten.)

Then, Fact 4: in 2015, we were splashed across UK newspaper headlines[2] as a capital example of DfID’s aid failures. (Something else we forgot.)

Conclusion A: our opinions or clever punditry and political rhetoric are irrelevant, it is DfID that (for cause) has lost confidence in us.

In short, Conclusion B: if we are to make serious progress on rebuilding our country, we have to rebuild our credibility and demonstrate world-class capacity to manage the US$ 200 – 400 millions of investments across 10 – 20+ years that it is going to take to transform our economy.

Indeed, Conclusion C: credibility and capacity to carry forward a transformation programme are the pivotal challenges we face over the next three to five years.

That is what makes understanding the MDC- Little Bay-Gun Hill fiasco so important for our future. And no, by September 2014 it was clear that DfID lost confidence in the MDC and was not going to back further projects, given governance and management challenges that led to the emergence of a key whistleblower. By the next May, we were being splashed across the UK Tabloids as a key example of alleged corruption with UK development aid. That was a nearly mortal blow to Montserrat. And yes, “fiasco” is their word:

DfID’s 2012 MDC business case is quite clear:

Little Bay and Carr’s Bay are the only developable sites left on the island capable of offering access by sea, providing a base for new FDI in tourism and other sectors, providing new commercial space and civic amenities and housing the critical mass of population and business necessary to stimulate local private sector development. Whilst some infrastructure provision and construction has occurred on the Little Bay site, it has not yet generated significant momentum and is hampered by poor physical access, an impractical master plan, fragmented and unprofessional marketing and promotion, and an unsupportive policy environment. Without the development of Little Bay and Carr’s Bay, improved access, and reduced costs of doing business, Montserrat will remain uncompetitive in attracting FDI.  Without this investment, the local business base will remain unable to design and produce exportable products and services or to substitute for expensive imports on a competitive and sustainable basis.

[pp. 3 – 4]

In effect, by 2012 – after five years – MDC had failed to get self-sustaining investment momentum going (reallocating its funds to build a few buildings – with a cloud of associated questions over procurement[3] –  doesn’t count). A further injection of EC$ 5+ millions then failed by 2014, leading to whistleblowing then loss of confidence by DfID and finally to tabloid headlines.

A further factor we drive by every day but seem to overlook was the diversion of millions of EDF capacity development funds to knock down Gun Hill[4] (which was to “signal the start of the US$96 million dollar port development project in the Carrs Bay area”). The material was then used to fill up Piper’s Pond (which was supposed to become the new town centre . . . another evaporated idea); thus destroying the last remaining significant wetland on our West Coast.  Here is what we did to the now collapsing Gun Hill:

However by February 2014, after sixteen months no investment partners were found for the proposed Carrs Bay seaport development, so the UK proposed a reported £23 million, less costly but arguably adequate port development at Little Bay. (So, five years later we are only now clawing back up to what we already had on the table in February 2014 but walked away from.)

Worse, we also ended up with two environmental failures and two eyesores to this day. That’s why on August 9th just past, TMR  reported on the recent Audit on Gun Hill[5]:

The removal of Gunn Hill had immediate adverse effects such as loss of scenic quality, loss of resilience to storm attack and reduction of sediment supply to the coast. To date, no manmade landscape was created as a result of the discontinuation of the project.

The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) found that the appearance of sinkholes in and around the site highlighted the danger of using the area for fishing, increased dumping of soil and boulders and derelict items and vehicles which can be easily moved during strong wind and heavy rains.

Extraction of a significant portion of the hill has weakened the superstructure; Additionally, ongoing mining of significant amount of sand using excavators also threatens the possibility of further erosion . . . .

Government of Montserrat should always ensure that they have agreed alternate sources of financing to cover the full cost of a project before commencing projects of such nature and magnitude. Further, a request should be made for every project/proposed development requiring an environmental impact assessment to include a section on the impact on the environment at the end of each critical phase of major projects if it were discontinued.

This is where we are since 2012 – 14, utterly discredited in the eyes of DfID (and then the UK public); starting with MDC but going far beyond that.

That was not helped when, after two years of effort, a Programme Management Office was finally set up, only to see its Director frog marched out of Government Headquarters a few months later,  in July 2017. Marched out, on a no-cause clause dismissal; which is obviously highly questionable. The dragons had struck back.[6] Nearly two more years of foot-dragging in murky waters followed, before we could re-start the PMO under a new head. That has multiplied our utter discredit, having already cost Montserrat two (or is it three . . . ?) more needlessly lost years.

We must do better, much better.

Clever rhetoric and finger-pointing blame games or vague promises to wave one’s magic wand, hey presto are not going to solve the problem. Nor, can we go back and conveniently erase this history.  Instead, we must learn from it and make sure that the restored PMO is credible, solid, substantial. For one, it will need to go back to the Axelos, PRINCE2 system as a benchmark for world class project, programme and portfolio capacity-building and governance. We must at least be as sound as that. 

Similarly, any onward trade, investment, town development and tourism promotion agencies will have to have far stronger governance mechanisms than those that failed for the MDC.  That points to the same Axelos yardstick.

And yes, that cuts clean across what our dragons want – or for that matter, the UK ones. It is therefore we the people who will have to collectively put our feet down and say, enough is enough . . . after twenty lost years.


[1]           See: http://iati.dfid.gov.uk/iati_documents/4158833.odt

[2]           See: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3084557/400m-foreign-aid-fiasco-paradise-Bribery-kickbacks-tax-money-siphoned-pet-projects-tiny-Carribean-island-British-worker-blew-whistle-paid-devastating-price.html

[3]           TMR, May 17, 2013: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/opposition-leader-romeo-questions-mdc-procurement-practises/

[4]           TMR, Aug 20, 2013: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/gun-hill-removal-to-begin-next-week-seen-as-commencement-of-port-project/

[5]           TMR, Aug 9, 2019: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/auditor-general-reports-on-the-degradation-at-gunn-hill-carrs-bay/

[6]           TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrat-why-do-we-need-a-development-partnership-mou-with-the-uk/

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Part 12/2019 (Contribution)

When will we face facts about the MDC’s “failure” from 2007 to 2014?

BRADES, Montserrat, August 28, 2019 –  Yes, MDC – Little Bay – Gun Hill fiasco. In case anyone doubts the need for a Charter of Good Governance and a Development Partnership MoU with the UK Government, he or she needs to face the MDC fiasco facts. Fact one, in 2011 – 12, DfID for cause concluded that the Montserrat Development Corporation had failed:

Insert Ads Here

“ . . . the MDC has not performed to date as had been expected. The diagnosis ofthis failure is clear – too broad a remit given the staffing constraints, over ambitious targets and expectations, lack of clarity on how much independence and authority MDC was to be given, poor governance arrangements, a micro-managing Board of Directors and inadequate performance from the original implementing consultants.” [DfID 2012 MDC Business Case,[1] p. 4]

Notice, carefully, DfID’s evaluation of MDC by 2011 – 12: “MDC has not performed to date as had been expected . . . failure.”

Yes, Fact 2: DfID put in another $5+ millions and tried to help pull MDC out of the morass.

Sadly, Fact 3: that too failed, and by 2014 we saw whistle-blowers, investigations and a funding lock-off.  (All of that stuff that we have forgotten.)

Then, Fact 4: in 2015, we were splashed across UK newspaper headlines[2] as a capital example of DfID’s aid failures. (Something else we forgot.)

Conclusion A: our opinions or clever punditry and political rhetoric are irrelevant, it is DfID that (for cause) has lost confidence in us.

In short, Conclusion B: if we are to make serious progress on rebuilding our country, we have to rebuild our credibility and demonstrate world-class capacity to manage the US$ 200 – 400 millions of investments across 10 – 20+ years that it is going to take to transform our economy.

Indeed, Conclusion C: credibility and capacity to carry forward a transformation programme are the pivotal challenges we face over the next three to five years.

That is what makes understanding the MDC- Little Bay-Gun Hill fiasco so important for our future. And no, by September 2014 it was clear that DfID lost confidence in the MDC and was not going to back further projects, given governance and management challenges that led to the emergence of a key whistleblower. By the next May, we were being splashed across the UK Tabloids as a key example of alleged corruption with UK development aid. That was a nearly mortal blow to Montserrat. And yes, “fiasco” is their word:

DfID’s 2012 MDC business case is quite clear:

Little Bay and Carr’s Bay are the only developable sites left on the island capable of offering access by sea, providing a base for new FDI in tourism and other sectors, providing new commercial space and civic amenities and housing the critical mass of population and business necessary to stimulate local private sector development. Whilst some infrastructure provision and construction has occurred on the Little Bay site, it has not yet generated significant momentum and is hampered by poor physical access, an impractical master plan, fragmented and unprofessional marketing and promotion, and an unsupportive policy environment. Without the development of Little Bay and Carr’s Bay, improved access, and reduced costs of doing business, Montserrat will remain uncompetitive in attracting FDI.  Without this investment, the local business base will remain unable to design and produce exportable products and services or to substitute for expensive imports on a competitive and sustainable basis.

[pp. 3 – 4]

In effect, by 2012 – after five years – MDC had failed to get self-sustaining investment momentum going (reallocating its funds to build a few buildings – with a cloud of associated questions over procurement[3] –  doesn’t count). A further injection of EC$ 5+ millions then failed by 2014, leading to whistleblowing then loss of confidence by DfID and finally to tabloid headlines.

A further factor we drive by every day but seem to overlook was the diversion of millions of EDF capacity development funds to knock down Gun Hill[4] (which was to “signal the start of the US$96 million dollar port development project in the Carrs Bay area”). The material was then used to fill up Piper’s Pond (which was supposed to become the new town centre . . . another evaporated idea); thus destroying the last remaining significant wetland on our West Coast.  Here is what we did to the now collapsing Gun Hill:

However by February 2014, after sixteen months no investment partners were found for the proposed Carrs Bay seaport development, so the UK proposed a reported £23 million, less costly but arguably adequate port development at Little Bay. (So, five years later we are only now clawing back up to what we already had on the table in February 2014 but walked away from.)

Worse, we also ended up with two environmental failures and two eyesores to this day. That’s why on August 9th just past, TMR  reported on the recent Audit on Gun Hill[5]:

The removal of Gunn Hill had immediate adverse effects such as loss of scenic quality, loss of resilience to storm attack and reduction of sediment supply to the coast. To date, no manmade landscape was created as a result of the discontinuation of the project.

The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) found that the appearance of sinkholes in and around the site highlighted the danger of using the area for fishing, increased dumping of soil and boulders and derelict items and vehicles which can be easily moved during strong wind and heavy rains.

Extraction of a significant portion of the hill has weakened the superstructure; Additionally, ongoing mining of significant amount of sand using excavators also threatens the possibility of further erosion . . . .

Government of Montserrat should always ensure that they have agreed alternate sources of financing to cover the full cost of a project before commencing projects of such nature and magnitude. Further, a request should be made for every project/proposed development requiring an environmental impact assessment to include a section on the impact on the environment at the end of each critical phase of major projects if it were discontinued.

This is where we are since 2012 – 14, utterly discredited in the eyes of DfID (and then the UK public); starting with MDC but going far beyond that.

That was not helped when, after two years of effort, a Programme Management Office was finally set up, only to see its Director frog marched out of Government Headquarters a few months later,  in July 2017. Marched out, on a no-cause clause dismissal; which is obviously highly questionable. The dragons had struck back.[6] Nearly two more years of foot-dragging in murky waters followed, before we could re-start the PMO under a new head. That has multiplied our utter discredit, having already cost Montserrat two (or is it three . . . ?) more needlessly lost years.

We must do better, much better.

Clever rhetoric and finger-pointing blame games or vague promises to wave one’s magic wand, hey presto are not going to solve the problem. Nor, can we go back and conveniently erase this history.  Instead, we must learn from it and make sure that the restored PMO is credible, solid, substantial. For one, it will need to go back to the Axelos, PRINCE2 system as a benchmark for world class project, programme and portfolio capacity-building and governance. We must at least be as sound as that. 

Similarly, any onward trade, investment, town development and tourism promotion agencies will have to have far stronger governance mechanisms than those that failed for the MDC.  That points to the same Axelos yardstick.

And yes, that cuts clean across what our dragons want – or for that matter, the UK ones. It is therefore we the people who will have to collectively put our feet down and say, enough is enough . . . after twenty lost years.


[1]           See: http://iati.dfid.gov.uk/iati_documents/4158833.odt

[2]           See: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3084557/400m-foreign-aid-fiasco-paradise-Bribery-kickbacks-tax-money-siphoned-pet-projects-tiny-Carribean-island-British-worker-blew-whistle-paid-devastating-price.html

[3]           TMR, May 17, 2013: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/opposition-leader-romeo-questions-mdc-procurement-practises/

[4]           TMR, Aug 20, 2013: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/gun-hill-removal-to-begin-next-week-seen-as-commencement-of-port-project/

[5]           TMR, Aug 9, 2019: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/auditor-general-reports-on-the-degradation-at-gunn-hill-carrs-bay/

[6]           TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrat-why-do-we-need-a-development-partnership-mou-with-the-uk/