Statement by Governor Rankin on the Fifth Quarterly Review of the Implementation of the COI Recommendations




Today I have published my Fifth Quarterly Review of the implementation of the Commission of Inquiry recommendations.

The COI report was published in April 2022, twenty-one months ago. The COI found poor governance, a lack of accountability and the misuse of public funds. Members of the House of Assembly weren’t declaring their interests, two thirds of all contracts over $100k weren’t being openly tendered. There were serious concerns over the system of assistance grants, which were further clearly shown in the audits that have been carried out by the Auditor General.

The COI made 49 recommendations to help resolve these issues and place the BVI on a better path to good governance. In June 2022, the Government of National Unity accepted 48 of those 49 recommendations and committed themselves to delivering them. Politicians from across political parties agreed that delivering these reforms was vital.

I am disappointed however to report that in recent months progress on these commitments has significantly stalled. My previous Quarterly Review was relatively positive, but it called for a concerted effort and prioritisation from Ministers to make further progress. This has not happened.

Last September, 24 of the 48 recommendations had been delivered by the Government’s own count. As of today, only one more recommendation has been delivered. Namely, the receipt of the Constitutional Review Commission Report, which of course was not carried out by Government but by an independent review body.

In April 2023, I published a letter from the then UK Minister for the Overseas Territories. Lord Goldsmith said if the necessary reforms have taken root no later than May 2024, this should allow the Order in Council to be lifted. I do not now foresee that reforms will have taken root at that point, and it is clear that more time will be required. I have accordingly suggested in my Quarterly Review that an extension to the end of November 2024 would be appropriate.

While I believe an extension is necessary, additional time alone will not be enough. The initial deadlines were agreed by BVI Government.  Some (not all) of the deadlines were tight and the Government asked for extensions on two occasions, last January and again in September. Those extensions were accepted by the UK. But even these are still being consistently missed.

So in addition to a deadline extension to the end of November, there is clearly a need for some further step or steps to drive forward implementation of the COI recommendations. I am not recommending triggering of the Order in Council in order to establish an interim administration led by the Governor. But I have come to the conclusion that additional powers for the Governor are required to help ensure that the BVI Government delivers its commitments. I will be writing to the UK Minister today with a recommendation to that effect.

I know that implementation of some of the recommendations isn’t easy. Indeed I have faced challenges in delivering a couple of the recommendations for which I am responsible. For example, the Vetting Project, to conduct checks to ensure that all law enforcement officers are suitable for their roles. When we realised matters weren’t moving quickly enough, my team and I stepped in to provide greater oversight, with additional time and resources devoted to the project. In particular we successfully pushed for and got a full time project manager, who has helped to bring this work back on track.

Similarly, we’ve ensured that the Law Enforcement Review is now fully underway, with an expert team now in place who have made two intensive visits to the Territory, supported by $1m funding from the UK Government. I expect to receive their report by the end of March.

There is a need for similar interventions when other recommendations are lagging behind.

So which specific areas are lagging behind? The Premier wrote to me in September with the most recent proposed deadlines. For example, by now we should have:

  • An amended Register of Interests Act
  • A new education grants policy
  • A policy setting out the principles of how Statutory Boards should operate
  • A new Public Service Management Act
  • Revised Criminal Procedure Rules
  • Improvements to the way the discretionary powers of Ministers are exercised
  • A strengthened Integrity in Public Life Act
  • A functioning Whistleblower Act

None of these have yet been achieved.

Without such reforms, the better governance which the people of the BVI need and deserve will not be achieved and the issues which the COI identified could more easily return.

I want the BVI to succeed. It is precisely for that reason that I believe that simply proposing another extension in deadlines is insufficient and that additional steps are required. The potential of these beautiful Virgin Islands is there for all to see and I want to see that potential wholly fulfilled.

I am scheduled to leave the Territory soon and a new Governor, Mr Daniel Pruce, will be in place by the end of January. I will continue to work hard during my remaining time in the BVI. I am grateful to the Premier for his continued commitment and the hard work demonstrated by the public servants who are committed to this work. With determination and resolve together, the reforms which the people of the Virgin Islands want and deserve can be achieved.

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