By Deandrea Hamilton – October 25, 2020 — Why won’t the Turks and Caicos Islands Government just turn up at the table in the Beaches Resort dispute? There are so many solid reasons the Government should make every effort to confront the law suit and the claims.
The squabble had long ago gone public and why the wrangle rages on is concerning on many levels. Chief among them is that Beaches Resort is an investor and customer of the TCI Government, another is the fact if the Government is right about its position, the country stands to benefit fiscally to the tune of tens of millions of dollars from settlement of the suit.
Even the National Audit Office of the Turks and Caicos Islands is desperately worried about money managers and money management systems within the TCI Government.
The Auditor General, in the financial statements report for the year ending March 2018 made striking interpretations, candidly expressing in the Executive Summary that, “We remain extremely concerned about inaccurate financial reporting over 10 years or more of disclaimers or adverse audit opinions, weak financial controls…” the report also said: “Arrears have significantly increased over the last several years. Currently, there exists $165 million owed to TCIG…”
Frighteningly, these kinds of reveals not only punctuate but populate the report which is a public document, available at the National Audit Office website.
Government should act with haste given there are thousands of people dependent upon Beaches resort for their personal economies; hundreds of businesses which experience healthier earnings due to the over 70 percent of long stay arrivals Beaches Resort attracts; the myriad of taxes government gains due to the bustle of arrivals and commercial activity and one has to challenge whether the Government cares as much as it says it does given these factors.
Government-spun handouts to help are not going well amidst the pandemic. The country is cash-strapped and entered a recession 25 days ago.
Magnetic Media has fielded and published a variety of comments on the matter; many wish they did not know about this fiasco and all want it to stop. Basically, islanders tell us they want airlines to come back, tourists to come in and money to start making.
Should Beaches get away with paying its taxes? Certainly not! Now more than ever, Turks and Caicos needs that money, so how about someone actually making a move to get it.
It truly is a wonder why TCIG seems so complacent in gathering up these acorns for what economists predict will be a very, very long winter; and $26.5 million is a lot of acorns.
Beaches has delivered on some strong language which has elicited raised eyebrows, mine included. But I’ve had to ask myself are the characterisations really off-base?
Action speaks louder than words.
Bottom line, if we want to reignite the buoyancy of tourism in Turks and Caicos, which is hinged on this strategic alliance with Beaches Resort; I may have to reluctantly agree that the labels are hard but true.
Here is what the Auditor said: “The NAO is especially concerned now that since raising this audit issue over six years ago, millions in Capital Assets ($425 million and quite probably more) have not been properly accounted for. We are unsure as to what these amounts make up, where they are located, their condition and whether or not they will ever be accounted for.”
Residents have turned their anger about these characterisations upon the resort when more accurately, this is a time when TCI Government should not be allowed to get away with its lack of transparency and accountability this hundreds of millions of dollars the Auditor’s Report claims the country was owed up to the end of 2017-2018 fiscal year.
It is not okay that the TCI Government plugs along at virtually no pace regarding this matter, all the while earning an uninterrupted, full salary while thousands of personal incomes are cut, thousands are laid off, thousands are in need of socio-economic support and businesses have had to shut their doors.
Many families are valiantly struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile, relevant leaders are on vacation. Able to take themselves away from the stresses brought on by the coronavirus, while, it seems intentionally escalating a matter instead of ‘handling’ it.
Maybe Government leaders did need that pay-cut. A slash in salaries over seven or eight months, as it has been for thousands of residents, may have fostered empathy and urgency.
But there is no pay cut for them and there is no urgency from them.
So, to the country leaders we note that there is time, though very little and there is ZOOM.
It would seem more in synch with the struggle of the residents in this season, if vacations were cut short or interrupted in order to give the Beaches Resort matter some undivided attention and equitable closure.