Penn argued that the government has racked up significant debts through its management of statutory bodies, to the detriment of local vendors.
“We have a government that is talking about it hasn’t done deficit spending but yet you have your statutory organisations — and I’ll start with the BVI Airports Authority (BVIAA) — owing vendors close to $1.8 million,” Penn said during the budget debate.
Included among the debts, Penn said, is $106,000 that is outstanding for the completion of the airport’s COVID-19 Visitor Center built a year ago.
He argued that government has a responsibility to support a statutory organisation whenever they are facing trouble.
“You cannot continue to say that you’ve managed to [escape] deficit spending but you’re running your country on the backs of the businesses,” Penn argued.
He related that businesses are not given the luxury of submitting late payments for National Health Insurance, Social Security, and taxes without any penalties.
“You can’t pad your balance sheet and owing all these contractors and small businesses in this country. You’re destroying the business sector in this country. You’re not paying them any interest, but you’re holding their monies for over a year,” Penn stated.
He added that statutory bodies currently owe nearly $200,000 in insurance, another responsibility he accused the government of neglecting.
The Opposition Leader also claimed that there were Social Security-related deductions made to the salaries of BVIAA employees. However, Penn said that these deductions were never paid into their pension fund, an act he described as illegal on the part of the government.
Penn said this disclosure was made during the House of Assembly’s Standing Finance Committee deliberations and showed the dire straits that the BVIAA were experiencing.
According to Penn, the amount deducted was in excess of $206,000. He said this figure was from employees’ contribution and not that of the Airports Authority itself.
“That removal of the funds from persons pensions is criminal and those employees need to be paid their interest that they would have accrued from the time that that money was taken from their pension fund,” Penn said.