05 September, 2009


Accountability. I have obtained a copy of the Airport Project financial report presented earlier this week by the Hon Victor Banks, Minister of Finance, to Members of the House of Assembly at the request of the Hon Edison Baird. I read it and had an immediate allergic reaction. I realise I could comment on it in temperate language. Intemperate language, I find, is the best antihystamine.

We will all remember that Mr Baird had complained approximately one year ago in the House of Assembly that there were rumours that some proprietors of land taken by government for the airport extension project had received many more times the value of compensation that other equally deserving proprietors had received. He demanded a list of the value of the compensation paid to each proprietor so that he could determine if there was any truth to that rumour. The Minister of Finance denied that anyone had been singled out for special compensation. He promised to produce a complete accounting, listing the amount of value in land, money or whatever, that each proprietor received so that everyone could see how transparent and accountable this government was.

The document that Mr Banks has now produced is 8 pages long. He said at the time he distributed it that it was incomplete. Some information had not yet been received. Some transactions are incomplete. But, you would expect that, for those transactions that are complete, all the information is in the report. You would be wrong.

I have scanned the document into my computer. I can let anybody who wants to receive a copy of the complete document have it by email, if you send me a request.

I publish below a cropped version of page 1 only. The six columns show the name of the proprietor, the property taken by government, a description of any property given in exchange by government, and the total acreage/payout to the proprietor. I have cropped two columns of irrelevant information.

The first thing you notice when you read the entire document is that it omits the most expensive piece of property acquired. I cannot find Dame Bernice Lake’s family land mentioned on the list of names at all. There is no reason why that acquisition should have been omitted from the accounting on the Airport Project. It was an intrinsic part of the airport extension project. I do not know the value of the land acquired but it was several acres. At a guess it is probably worth as much as all the land and property listed. It may not yet have been paid for, but it has to be paid for in due course, and government must have had it valued and knows what it expects to pay.

In other words, the accounting that Mr Banks has produced may not cover one half of the property acquired. That is woefully inadequate. He gave no reason for his omission to give any amount of compensation already paid to the Lake family, and any estimate of what the government expects to pay in all for the property.

The second thing you notice is that in the sixth column, ‘Acreage/payout’, only the area of land and any money paid in cash is listed. There is no estimate of the value of the property given by the proprietor, or the value of the property given by government. There must have been some attempt by the Land Valuation Department to value the individual properties being acquired. Mr Baird was entitled to know that any particular property being acquired was valued at a particular amount. Similarly, there must have been a value put to the land that was being offered in exchange.

Then there are the replacement homes. In some cases, in addition to an exchange of land together with a cash amount, there was a replacement home built by government. A perusal of the document reveals that a total of eighteen (18) replacement homes were part of the compensation packages paid to proprietors. That must have been a significant cost. There is no attempt to account for this money paid by government to construct the replacement homes.

If, say, in exchange for a house on a quarter of an acre of land altogether worth $500,000.00, government gave the proprietor (i) a half an acre of land worth, say, $100,000.00, (ii) cash of $20,000.00, and (iii) a replacement house that cost $480,000.00 to build, then, if the list contains only the first two items, it will have accounted for only 20% of the total amount of compensation actually paid. And, we will not know how close to or far away from the value of the property taken was the total amount of compensation paid. This is information that government already has. It has already taken one year to produce this account.

There is no reason I can discern why the Ministry of Finance cannot instantly put its hands on the figures for the cost of building each replacement home. Don’t tell me that no account was kept of it, house by house. They had to know that they had agreed to build for a particular proprietor a three-bedroom house costing, say, $500,000.

There would have been agreements with the proprietors. There would have been tenders and contracts with the building contractors. There would have been Ministry of Infrastructure supervisors ensuring that what was contracted was built. There would have been Ministry of Finance officers keeping a check on cost overruns and other financial information.

We will recall that, in relation to the proposed 500 ft extension to the east of the airport, PS Larry Franklin assured us just a scant few days ago that:

4. There are already procurement guidelines for the Government of Anguilla. There will be project oversight by the permanent secretaries in Finance, Economic Development and Infrastructure. There is a functioning Internal Audit Department and I expect the Internal Audit Department to audit the project both during and after the execution stages. I also expect the external auditors to audit the project.

5. [Your comments on procurement as a source of graft] maybe true and I appreciate your concerns on this matter. However, there are policies, standards and procedures in place. The project has to conform to those policies, standards and procedures. The Department of Infrastructure has managed significant roads projects before including the Rev. CL Carty Road, the Jeremiah Gumbs Road, and the road around Island Harbour. There have been no major accountability issues with the management of the construction of those roads.

It is my opinion that the Minister has short-changed Mr Baird in supplying such inadequate, incomplete and misleading information to him. He was required by the rules of parliamentary procedure not to give an incomplete and misleading answer to a request for such vital information.

To summarise, the minimum information that Mr Baird was entitled to receive was (i) the value of the property acquired from each proprietor; and (ii) the value of the total compensation paid to or estimated to be due to each proprietor. Even accepting that some of the transactions are not yet complete, and the final figures not known, the vast majority of transactions are complete, yet the figures for these is not given.

This document does not begin to demonstrate that government is prepared to publish and reveal the true amounts paid or due to be paid to all the proprietors. Whatever the alleged policies, standards and procedures alluded to by Mr Franklin are, they are clearly ineffective to permit an audit of the airport project. I would hate to think what waste and worse there has been on other projects managed by the Department of Infrastructure in such a lax way as this one obviously was.

If this is the best government could do, then, in my opinion the document is evidence that our government departments lack the capacity to manage and supervise any major public works project satisfactorily or at all.

God help us all when the additional airport extension is built later this year!

Related Posts:

Airport – 23 August 2009


  1. There are only two possible explanations for the inadequacy of the information released by the Ministry of Finance: either the Minister has not provided the full picture on purpose, OR the various government departments involved in answering this question do not have the capacity and knowhow to create and maintain the necessary information (or both).

    If the inadequacy of recordkeeping in the civil service played any role here, it is a terrible shame. Good information management is a crucial part of Anguilla's development. Without it, how can any action of government or pronouncement of a minister be taken seriously? Is anyone ever accountable for anything in government?

  2. Not in this government.
    Believe nothing they tell you.
    Believe only the facts.

  3. The arguments for extending the runway seem to be somewhat absurd.

    London City Airport (google 'London City Airport Length'), has a runway length of 1508m. = 4984'.

    Wallblake runway length is 1665m = 5462'

    Therefore AXA is 588' longer than London City.

    aircraft types operating from London City include ATR42, 72; Dash8, BAE46; Dornier328; EmbraerERJ;170, 190; Fokker50, 70; SAAB2000, Airbus318.

    Biz jets include Beechcraft super king; Cessna citation jet, Hawker400, 800; Dassault falcon jet.

    London City is licenced by the CAA. I imagine that Wallblake also comes under the CAA as Anguilla is a British Overseas Territory.

    What is the problem?

    AXA is not 'hot and high', and therefore aircraft performance is not reduced.

    The extra 500' at the east end of the runway could slope down, and be filled with gravel, which would stop any aircraft overrunning in the wet. A tractor would be needed to pull a victim out

    I might add that last year London City had 94,516 movements and 3,260,236 passengers.

  4. Wow. Sauce for the goose, and all that. Great big London's not being thrashed, but tiny little Anguilla is. Who'da thunk? ;-)

    So, looking again at Google Earth (by way of a jaunt to the east end of Wallblake so I could say I saw it myself :-)), I drew up a 72 foot absolute-altitude 500 foot by 600 foot (fence to fence, more or less) volumetric polygon and noticed something interesting.

    The lowest spot to be filled is about 58 feet in altitude, near the southeast corner of the filled area, and the highest spot in that same polygon is 95 feet or so in the northeast corner. Most likely there's enough rock already on the site to fill the hole on the east side.

    When I first got there to look yesterday afternoon, I thought, "Woops. a gully at the end of the runway, maybe $10 million after all."

    But, looking at it with Google Earth :-), the problem turns into one of blasting and filling. It looks like it'll take about 56 thousand cubic yards of fill on the southeast side of the proposed fill area, and a little more than that, say sixty thousand cubic yards, of blasting and trucking fill out on the northeast side to cut a notch out of the hill. If I calculated "cubic yard" right in my little 5x8 Excel spreadsheet, that is. :-)

    So, sorry, still not $10 million. Probably not even half that. Or even a quarter, I'd bet, even at today's inflated construction prices. And, yes, it looks doable before November, I'd bet, if someone lit a fire under some other people. :-). ANFO's cheap, there are lots of dumptrucks and trackhammers on the island still, and, like I said, there's probably even lots of, heh, marl, laying around where it shouldn't be.

    If people want the google earth .kml file I did of the volumetric polygon i used to figure this out with, which took about 5 minutes to do, speak up and I'll send it to Don and he can send it to you. Or you can take a few minutes with Google Earth's "Polygon" function and do one of your own.

  5. To the poster of 12:26 pm on 7 September 2009. What currency?

  6. It is truly scary that Victor can't and/or won't tell the whole story to the public. After all, it's our money and he is paid by us to take care of it and let us know what's happening with it and how it's being spent. That's his job, and, apparently, he's not willing to actually earn his salary. And, what's even scarier is that Victor would like to be the CM and have complete control over our wallets with, apparently, no thought that maybe he should be accountable to us poor voters/taxpayers.

  7. @ 07/09/09 13:24 : I was under the impression it was $10 million US. Is it EC$10 million?

    Frankly, two or three million US is still probably too high for something that any crew of competent quarrymen can do in a few weeks.

    Which makes me ask the question, was the $10 million I heard it cost to stretch the runway two thousand feet in the other direction US or EC?

  8. where is the full document for us to see you were able to show the full case of the TCI?

  9. Doesn't it make you wonder that the GOA can produce accounting on a monthly basis when they are in danger of not getting paid but they can not give Eddie a detailed report on how much they have spent and who got it for the airport expansion.

  10. Apparently, it only costs $11 million US to build a whole runway.

    Plus buffer zones.



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