A request for proposals to find a new financial consultant for the Government Employees’ Retirement System’s local alternative investment program only attracted a single applicant, leading the GERS board of directors to reissue the RFP for another 30 days at a special meeting held by teleconference Thursday.
Director Austin Nibbs said the position had been advertised for a month and, while he received “six or seven” inquiries, only two companies submitted proposals.
One of the proposals, submitted by the firm Hamilton and Lee, was deemed insufficient because the company refused to provide some of the information requested by GERS, claiming it was proprietary. That left Standard International Group, the company that currently has the contract, as the only compliant bidder.
Nibbs said GERS had issued contracts in cases where there was only a single bidder in the past, so there was nothing stopping the board from awarding Standard International Group the contract. However, board member Desmond Maynard, chairman of the investment committee, said he couldn’t support that course of action.
“With only one respondent to choose from, I don’t think that’s the optimum situation,” he said.
Maynard suggested the RFP be reissued in hopes of attracting more applicants. Nibbs responded that had no objections to doing so, but he feared the results would be the same.
He reiterated that several firms had inquired about the contract but chose to pass after learning the details.
“They could have responded, but they did not,” he said.
He suggested that the RFP may be too broad and suggested the board specify exactly what type of “financial consultant” they were looking for.
Several board members indicated that a key attribute they were looking for was someone who understands Virgin Island culture and politics as the alternative investment program often puts money into local businesses.
Board member Carol Callwood expressed shock when Nibbs stated that none of the interested firms were based in the Virgin Islands and said she was puzzled why there was no local interest in the position.
Nibbs could not supply a definitive answer, but said there were qualified local firms.
“The experience is here,” he said.
The board voted to reissue the RFP and mandated it be advertised in the media once a week for four consecutive weeks.
Voting in favor were board members Callwood, Maynard, Leona Smith, Vincent Liger and Wilbur Callender. Board members Edgar Ross and Raymond James voted no.
The board then went into a lengthy executive session and dealt with a number of issues.
– The board voted unanimously to increase the loan amount awarded to V.I. Finest Foods, a group that plans to open a supermarket on St. Thomas, from $7 million to $7.7 million;
– The board unanimously approved a payment of $350,091 to the Carambola Beach Resort and Spa to cover its cash flow shortfall during the summer months. Nibbs explained that this was not a loan as GERS now owns the resort and said the payment was only meant to float Carambola until the tourist season picks up in the winter;
– The board voted to hire a consulting firm to review the operations of the Havensight Mall in preparation of a planned overhaul and modernization of the facility. Voting in favor were board members Callwood, Maynard, Callender, Ross and James. Board member Liger abstained and Smith was absent at the time of the vote
– The board also voted to direct Nibbs to negotiate a settlement agreement with the V.I. Water and Power Authority for money owed to the system. Voting in favor were board members Maynard, Smith, Liger and Callender. Board members Callwood, James and Ross voted no.
The board also discussed personnel matters, reviewed a settlement agreement with the V.I. government for missing contributions, discussed a management agreement with West Indian Company Ltd. and heard a presentation by the special counsel for Kazi Foods. However, as these discussions happened in executive session, details of the deliberations were not made public.