According to Section 67 of the Virgin Islands Constitution, House of Assembly (HOA) members are expected to vacate their seat in the HOA if they or their firm are party to a contract with the government. However, a clause in the same law allows for an exemption if the member disclose the nature of the contract and their interest “before becoming a party to a contract, or before or as soon as practicable after becoming interested” in the contract with the government.
Defending the controversial contract, Fahie said based on his review, Smith’s contract through his company Caribbean Security for the installation of access control, video surveillance and burglar alarm was not only above board, but was one of many other bids presented.
This was despite there being no need for what he called an open tender, since the contract was below $100,000.
According to the Premier, Smith’s bid for the project was one of the lowest among these bids and covered all the bases required for the contract.
Smith’s exemption was ultimately approved by HOA members during the most recent sitting of the House.
In the meantime, Premier Fahie expressed that he is not an advocate of business owners who become politicians having to suffer as a result of serving the people.
“Persons say that when you come into politics you need to drop everything else,” Fahie said.
But the Premier said it is difficult for business owners who have been in business for decades – such as Fourth District Representative and OneMart owner, Mark Vanterpool – to just let their business “go asunder”, simply because they are in politics.
Instead, he said systems need to be in place to ensure that these business owners do not use their position to obtain any contracts.