Governor and Auditor General defend EZ Shipping report

Governor John Rankin, CMG.

Auditor General, Sonia Webster – who is usually quiet following the release of one of her reports, has been forced to defend her work after members of the House of Assembly claimed that the reports that were done on the contracts with EZ Shipping for marine platforms to provide border patrol is one-sided.

In a statement issued on 3 March, Webster said: “The audit in this matter was performed by gathering documentary evidence of the events and transactions occurring in this scheme across the ministries and departments associated with this project. In addition, interviews were performed with the heads of Customs and Immigration and with the former Police Commissioner. Interviews were also performed with senior staff who were assigned to work with the platforms. Where the mentioned individuals could not be interviewed in person, they provided information via questionnaire. Follow-ups were performed with individuals to ensure clarity and to allow an opportunity for them to provide further information.”

The Auditor General while defending her research stated that all of the necessary steps in a matter such as the EZ Shipping investigation were done. She also stated that the report was forwarded to the heads of Her Majesty’s Customs and Immigration for their review on 15 November.

Further, Webster explained that she noted the scathing nature of the findings and practiced the necessary due diligence such a matter requires. “During the investigation, it became clear that there might be illicit implications arising from the transactions that occurred. Our policy, in such cases, is to progress the matter to the stage where it can be sent to other agencies for further investigation, as pursuing potential criminality with entities outside of the public service is not within our remit. Notwithstanding, the preponderance of the evidence regarding the use of the barges was such that it would be negligent of me not to bring this to the attention of the public which is ultimately footing the bill for this expenditure.”

In the House of Assembly on 21 February, Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr the Hon Natalio Wheatley was one of the first to voice skepticism about the reports. He told the House, “You do a whole audit on EZ shipping, and you don’t interview EZ Shipping. Madam Speaker, I have a problem with that, that’s not the way you go about doing things.”


Territorial At Large Representative Hon. Carvin Malone also raised concerns about the EZ Shipping report which was the most recently debated.

He said, “Number 134 of the report, it says, ‘Payments made to EZ Shipping covered two months, when the barges were not used. Incorrect information was provided to NSC and Cabinet to facilitate approval of the contracts and support unearned payments of more than 700,000 dollars…That is quite a statement…I don’t see how that conclusion could have been reached”

While hammering his point that the report is one-sided Hon. Malone said, “When we look at the recommendations…the conclusions, the other side of the story has to be given…I am not here to defend any of the facts of which I don’t know…These reports must be more balanced in terms of getting the other side of the story.”

Opposition Leader Hon Julian Fraser while harping that the reports will do irreprehensible damage to EZ Shipping and persons associated with the company stated that their side of the story should have been included in the report. Hon. Fraser said, “What is fair, Madam Speaker, is when you write a report it should be balanced. First, it should be truthful and, second, it should be balanced.”

The Leader of the Opposition said, “I think that the Premier or any other Minister who’s bringing a report here from the Auditor General should have the right to say, ‘I’m not bringing it’. Because something isn’t right. I need more information.”


Meanwhile, His Excellency Governor John Rankin during a press conference on 3 March stated that he found no issues with the report. “I am satisfied that these audits meet these requirements.” The Governor also said, “I offer my continued support for and confidence in her [Auditor General] work.”

Governor Rankin said, “As regards the contract with EZ Shipping, the purpose of this Audit was to provide independent information and advice on whether efficiency, economy and effectiveness were achieved from the award and payment of contracts engaged by the Government for border security.”

His Excellency pointed out that the Auditor General also found that payments of $700000 to EZ Shipping were “unearned” and “covered two months when the barges were not used”.

While emphasizing that the Auditor General was diligent in her task stated: “Indeed the Auditor General requested but has not received any evidence that the platforms were used in the relevant period. The Commissioner of Customs, Mr. Wade Smith, in correspondence to the then Acting Financial Secretary, Jeremiah Frett, asserted that the barges were used from “September 2020 to January 2021.” 

“In the same correspondence, Mr. Smith refused to sign the certificate on the payment voucher to confirm that the barges had been used during the period 23 December to 22 January. In short, these payments were authorized by the National Security Council and Cabinet on the basis of incorrect information provided by the former Premier,” the Governor added.”

Further, the Governor stated that he has forwarded the EZ Shipping Report to the Attorney General’s Office for assessment of whether the Government should pursue recovery of any amounts paid to EZ Shipping. “I have asked the DPP and the Police to assess whether any offences were committed with respect to the engagement of the marine platforms.”