Today I am pleased to share with you my first quarterly review of the “Framework for Implementation of the Recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry Report and Other Reforms” (“the Framework document”), being led by the Government of National Unity. The quarterly review is a key part of the Framework document that was agreed between the UK and Government of National Unity to monitor the implementation of the COI recommendations.
This review has been sent to Ministers in the UK for consideration and I will hold a press conference once I have received their response to it.
The quarterly review includes a summary of progress against deadlines for implementation of the COI recommendations. It highlights a number of key areas, including: investigations and audits; reviews of policy and governance; appointments to statutory boards; reform of assistance grants; tendering of contracts; and law enforcement reform. As required by the Framework document it also includes an assessment of the political culture exhibited in the day-to-day running of government.
I hope you will take time to read the review in full. There has been good progress in some areas to date, and I am pleased with the overall constructive engagement and partnership I have had with the Premier and Cabinet. So far most of the deadlines in the Framework have been met on time and I am satisfied that those that have been delayed were for legitimate reasons. I am pleased that UNICEF has agreed to support the review of assistance grants which is now underway, and that His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary from the UK has agreed to lead the review of the law enforcement and justice system. These are examples of where the delay in starting the reviews was justified to ensure we found the right reviewers through the right processes.
However, in the quarterly review I note a number of areas of concern where there has been less progress than expected, and where I have been disappointed with the level of commitment to reform. These include amendments to the Register of Interests Bill which restrict access to the Register and would only make it publicly available in the most limited way; the resistance encountered to some of the nominations for the Constitutional Review Commission which ran contrary to the importance of the Commission being representative of the BVI as a whole; and the continued tender waivers being put forward to Cabinet with insufficient justification.
The overarching aim of the COI and this reform programme is to improve governance, accountability and transparency for the benefit of all of the people in the British Virgin Islands. It is essential that the areas of concern I have outlined are addressed and that new governance issues do not arise.
Much hard work remains to be done. Over the next few months we will start to see the outcomes from the various reviews, audits and investigations that are under way. The next stage will include consideration of those outcomes and the actions required as a result. Some are likely to involve difficult discussions and further much needed change to previous practices.
I will continue to work with the Premier and BVI Government to ensure that the necessary steps to improve governance are taken.
As Governor I remain committed to ensuring that change in the Territory is deep-rooted and that there is an ongoing and sustained effort to improve governance, transparency and accountability in the interests of the people of the Virgin Islands.