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COI quizzes Skelton Cline on gov’t contracts and qualifications

COI quizzes Skelton Cline on gov’t contracts and qualifications

Government consultant and talk show host, Claude Skelton Cline has been questioned by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) about his various contracts and consultancies with successive BVI governments over the years.

The clergyman was also grilled about the qualifications that allowed him to surpass others in being selected for the post of Managing Director of the BVI Ports Authority, which he held from 2012 to 2015 under the previous National Democratic Party (NDP) administration.

In a recently-released transcript of the hearing with the government consultant, Cline told the COI that his competencies resulted in him being selected to the post as head of the Ports, adding that he could not speak to whether any due diligence was conducted in his being selected for the position.

Questioned by COI counsel, Bilal Rawat, about how he came to be in government’s employ after his party at the time (NDP) had succeeded at the polls, Cline responded: “Well, I’d like to think that I got a post in government because of my competencies. And so, the fact that the party that I supported was in charge, I suspect, as is the case, would have been helpful in that area.”

His education history and experience


Skelton Cline’s tertiary education has been centred around religion, having studied ‘Theology’ and ‘Divinity’ for which he holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

Since then, he served as a pastor for 20 years in Detroit, Michigan in the United States and has led community development projects in housing for low-to-moderate-income persons.

Another notable experience of his professional career in the US was when he served as Director of Faith-Based Affairs. In this role, he was an “executive assistant” to former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick who, according to the CNN, was convicted for “racketeering conspiracy, extortion and the filing of false tax returns — in a case that accused him of using the mayor’s office to enrich himself and associates”. Kilpatrick resigned from his mayoral position back in 2008 when criminal proceedings were first brought against him.

The return and the contracts


As for Skelton Cline, the clergyman told the COI his reason for “transitioning” to the BVI in 2010 after living and working for decades in the United States, was primarily because of the birth of his son.

Cline was further questioned about work he reportedly did under the banner of the Neighbourhood Partnership Project, which was found to have yielded virtually no results, despite the government paying more than half-million in fees to his consultancy firm, Claude Ottley Consulting.

Cline was selected to execute the project under a previous incarnation of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) administration, then headed by former Premier, Ralph O’Neal, who is now deceased.

The project, however, was executed under the auspices of current Premier, Andrew Fahie, who had been Education Minister at the time. By the end of the programme, which ran from 2009 to 2010, an Auditor General’s report claimed the ministry paid Cline the princely sum of $571,800 over several instalments without any real work being done.

Pastor Cline told the COI that it is doubtful that he still had any documents related to the project.

The bible school highlight of Grace Consulting


Meanwhile, under the current VIP administration, Cline was awarded two separate no-bid contracts amounting to $242,000 – an amount which represents his first contract of six months, in addition to a further extension.

When asked by Rawat to give an outline of the businesses and companies he had been involved in, Cline did not reveal any specifics. Instead, he only mentioned that there is a “bible school component” to the company through which he has currently engaged the government.

“Currently, Grace Consultant–Grace Consulting and Counselling, which is a marital/counselling coaching. It also has a Bible school component. As a matter of fact that we’re getting ready to start back,” the clergyman said.

Pastor Cline further disclosed that he was the owner of Grand Savings, an import-export entity that reportedly does work in the area of procurement.

In an interview in September 2020, Cline said of two projects his Grace Consultancy company had undertaken: “Though I cannot report with any specificity on what we are working on, I can say that there are two major projects that’s in tow right now and so it’s not to pre-empt the government’s position and they being able to come to the public, which will be their rightful position.”

“It’s going well. I am enjoying the journey. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” the clergyman said at the time.

Asked whether he was a shareholder or investor in any other businesses, Cline said he was a shareholder in the BVI Investment Club, but has not receive any dividends for years.

He added: “… those are what come to mind. Here, in the Virgin Islands, you can take out 10 trade license in hopes of doing something and nothing ever happens, so that’s why if I–if I pause, that’s the only reason why I would pause.”

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