A statement emanating from the 32nd Intersessional meeting of the Caribbean Community Heads of Government held on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, said they are cognisant of the disquiet that has arisen among the people of the British Virgin Islands about the establishment of the COI.
Further, the Heads of Government noted the strongly-expressed concerns on this matter by the British Virgin Islands government, which concerns are also shared by other Associate Members of the Community.
The CARICOM Heads said they received a letter from Premier Andrew A. Fahie of the British Virgin Islands which apprised of the announcement on 18 January 2021 of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) “to establish whether there is evidence of corruption and abuse of office or other serious dishonesty” in the British Virgin Islands.
The COI which was ordered by the then sitting Governor, is now underway, and is being conducted by Judge Gary Hickinbottom who was sworn in as the sole Commissioner of Inquiry on January 22.
One of the claims is that $40m (£29m) set aside for struggling families during the COVID pandemic might have been channelled to political allies.
Announcing the Commission of Inquiry, Governor August Jaspert said there were "wide concerns over the possible mismanagement of some public projects".
He said successive audit reports had set out practices of "political interference, inflated pricing and conflicts of interest" and added: "These may have cost the public purse millions of dollars in recent years, with no sign of improvement.
Premier Andrew A. Fahie however, was not happy with the manner in which the inquiry was imposed and indicated so in a statement which emphasized that: Each such commission shall specify the subject of inquiry.
Starting in March 2019, weeks after taking office, this Government Administration under the leadership of Premier Andrew A. Fahie made and continues to make inquiries of Governor Augustus Jaspert concerning the steps to be taken in an effort to clear the names of accused persons in relation to any of the three major investigations that were conducted by the Public Accounts Committee, the Auditor General, and/or the Police, namely: (a) The Pier Park Project; (b) BVI Airways; (c) The Elmore Stoutt High School Wall.
The Act directs that any inquiry shall be specific. If there exists other specific concerns which have not been examined by the Public Accounts Committee, the Auditor General, or the Police, this should be clearly stated and due process allowed.
As stated on numerous occasions by the Governor, a Commission of Inquiry would only be conducted based on facts and not rumours and unfounded allegations.
Governor Jaspert further stated to Cabinet Members on numerous occasions that to ensure due process, all government institutions established to ensure accountability, transparency and good governance would be allowed to function and produce their reports.
It is only after these stages of the process are completed and investigations deemed inconclusive would the way be paved for a Commission of Inquiry. This has always been the process followed because it is the only process that allows for good governance to function in a manner that keeps the tenets of democracy sacred.
Until further details become available, the Government of the Virgin Islands will reserve all other comments.
- Countries: British_Virgin_Islands