RESPONSE BY HONOURABLE PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
REGARDING FUNDING OF THE ROYAL VIRGIN ISLANDS POLICE FORCE
March 16, 2017
PREMIER: SPECIAL BUDGETARY ATTENTION IS ALWAYS GIVEN TO POLICE
Good Evening, Fellow Citizens and Residents of the Virgin Islands.
At a press conference earlier this afternoon, His Excellency the Governor indicated that he had instructed (or will be instructing) the Financial Secretary pursuant to section 103 of the BVI constitution to provide $800,000 for the police, monies which were repeatedly asked for to augment the police force.
I am not sure what the motive of the Governor was in calling this press conference, but the people of this Territory will recall that we have just concluded our budgetary process where the Honourable House has allocated $16.1 million dollars to the Police Force, an increase over 2016 of $770,000 or approximately 5%.
There is no short fall in budget, to the contrary there is an increase!
Moreover, as you will see from the information which I shall provide in detail, there are several initiatives that are currently being processed for the benefit of the Royal Virgin Islands Police.
In short the RVIPF has or are about to receive not only their increase budgetary sums, but also other payments at the Treasury that are needed to carry out its duties of safety and security.
Let me assure the people of the Virgin Islands that special budgetary attention is always given to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force.
The same is true as well for the other law enforcement organs of the Governor’s Group such as the Magistracy, the Attorney General Chambers and the Supreme Court.
We consider all of these to be important pieces required in the proper functioning and security of the people of this Territory.
Additionally, in cases where matters come up for which there are no budgetary allocation, especially when items arise after the budget process, the police are always (without exception) given extra consideration and funds made available to meet commitments as they arise.
Normally, this is done through a decision made at the National Security Council level, the Cabinet or on instructions to the Ministry of Finance by myself.
I have never during my tenure as Minister of Finance received anything but the fullest cooperation from the Ministry of Finance on these matters.
In executing these instructions, however, I am assured that the Ministry of Finance requires proper documentation such that these requests can be processed in the proper manner as per the Public Finance Management Act, as they require of all departments and agencies in the Government of the Virgin Islands.
This is because when spending or extra budgetary funding is requested by any department of Government, monies can only be disbursed after proper paper work has been received in the Ministry of Finance.
The Ministry would require documents such as invoices; agreements or contracts that would need to accompany payments made; in order that an audit trails can exist.
This is required in order to observe proper governance and transparency principles.
Further, I am not aware of any instance, that any request to render financial assistance to the police, sanctioned by myself, Cabinet or the National Security Council has ever been rejected.
I should point out that there are some recent matters which have been discussed at the NSC level, Cabinet level and between the Governor and myself, which are still in process.
Permit me to now indicate the status of matters being processed by the Ministry of Finance in relation to the Police and their status:
- Operation Lucan – NSC has approved the continuation of this important police operation and has requested $116,000. The Ministry of Finance is awaiting formal requests to process the funding.
- Purchase of 6 interceptor vehicles, to arrive in May 2017. The Cheque is at Treasury for collection since December 2016.
- Upgrade of CCTV Cameras System. The Cheque is at Treasury for collection since December 2016.
- Purchase of Law Enforcement Equipment from TEC Supply. The Cheque is at Treasury for collection since December 2016.
- Renovations to Cells at the Road Town Police Station by J&J Construction. The Cheque is at Treasury for collection since December 2016.
- Maintenance of Engines of Police Boats. The Cheque is at Treasury for collection since December 2016.
- Sanitary Ware for Cells. The Cheque is at Treasury for collection since December 2016.
- Three new initiatives in relations to police recruits relating to the purchase of vehicles for police training, police training and supplies for new equipment for police training camp all approved and paper works received.
As you can see from all the foregoing this Government has never shied away from ensuring the security and safety of the people of this Territory and providing the finances to do so.
And we are not about to do so now!
I find it extremely regrettable that the Governor should feel it necessary to invoke his reserve powers on a matter such as this; where more funding has been given to the police in 2017 -- ongoing initiatives are well supported -- and there are proper governance and administrative processes to be followed that are fundamental to any democratic society.
His actions are especially concerning , since in addition to always providing the Police with financial resources; the Governor, the Deputy Premier, the Commissioner and I meet biweekly in the very National Security meetings where concerns related to safety and security are dealt with.
We have always dealt with these in an amicable and effective manner.
I am fully confident that this will continue!
I fully commend the hard work and commitment of the Commissioner and all ranks of the Police Force in this regard.
Let me also reiterate that no stone should be left unturned in bringing the perpetrators to justice of all crimes, and particularly the heinous crimes that have been committed in this Territory. If this calls for bringing in assistance from abroad let's do so immediately.
Yes, we must provide the police with financial resources.
In addition the Commissioner and the Force must continue to be innovative and creative in carrying out their duties.
Several suggestions have been made in this regard including bringing back recently retired and highly trained officers to help with policing in these challenging times. I trust that such measures will be heeded.
In addition, we remain committed to training of officers. Our Tertiary institution, the HLSCC is training and is happy to train another cohort of police recruits in the coming months, which will be the second in a relatively short space of time. We continue to fund longer term training and other specialised events for our officers.
I want to assure our people that we have been doing, and will continue to do what we must! Our People will and must continue to feel safe at home and on the street!
I am sure the Governor and I; as well as my Honourable colleagues and the people of this country, all share a desire for peace, stability and safety that has stood us in such good stead. This shared desire will ensure that our law enforcement is upheld to the highest standard and supported to the highest levels.
I end by reiterating my Government's unswerving and unreserved commitment to the RVIPF and to the safety and security of the people of this Territory.