STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
ON THE INTEGRITY IN PUBLIC LIFE ACT 2020
22ND DECEMBER, 2020
My dear Virgin Islands people. Good day and God’s Blessings to you and your family in this Holy Christmas Season.
Your elected Virgin Islands Government continues to take initiative and exercise leadership in putting measures in place to strengthen the good governance framework of our Territory.
During my time in Opposition and during the campaign leading up to the February 2019 General Election, I trumpeted the need for long-outstanding legislation to strengthen the accountability of public officials and to guard against misconduct and abuse of office.
My team and I pledged that if given the opportunity, we would ensure that this legislation go from being a discussion to being a reality.
Once such step is the passage of the Integrity In Public Life Act 2020, which is currently a Bill, and recently came before Cabinet for recommendations on 18 December, 2020.
This draft legislation was prepared and submitted to Cabinet on the initiative of the Premier’s Office. May I say that it is important to note the role that the Premier’s Office and your elected BVI Government is playing in driving the process for our Territory to have this legislation.
This initiative of the Premier’s Office is important for two reasons:
One, it represents our continued maturity as a people who have long been in control of our affairs.
Two, it represents our commitment to strengthening governance, which remains important for having a stable economy.
The Integrity in Public Life Bill maintains priority on your Government’s Legislative Agenda. In fact, by the First Quarter of 2021 this Bill will be back before Cabinet for final consideration, then before the House of Assembly and then wait for the Assent by the Governor.
Your elected Government believes in promoting and enhancing ethical conduct standards and that is why we are walking the talk and we are driving the initiative to consolidate laws relating to the prevention of corruption and the award, monitoring, and investigating government contracts and prescribed licences.
Your elected BVI Government will continue to put measures in place that will keep us on the path to prosperity and success.
Additionally, the Bill seeks to make provision for a Code of Conduct and declarations of interest for public officers. And may I say that both the Integrity In Public Life Bill and the Code of Conduct are reflective of the best regional and international practices and standards for such legislation.
Cabinet has approved that the Premier's Office will work in collaboration with the Deputy Governor on this particular matter. The Premier’s Office is the lead Department on the work to finalise the Integrity In Public Life Act because the scope of the legislation is wider than Public Officers.
The people of the Virgin Islands have historically subscribed to the Good Governance principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership in the conduct of public affairs.
These principles are reflected in the preamble to our Constitution, the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007, which acknowledges that the society of the Virgin Islands is based upon certain moral, and spiritual and democratic values, and that Virgin Islanders have developed themselves and their country based on qualities of honesty, integrity, mutual respect, among other noble principles.
The Constitution also affirms that we, the people of the Virgin Islands, have generally expressed our desire to become a self-governing people and to exercise the highest degree of control over the affairs of our country at this stage of its development. This, according to the Constitution and the United Nations Charter as it relates to decolonisation, requires that we the people of the Virgin Islands must play an active and proactive role in the development and shaping of our institutions.
In the past, attempts have been made since the 1990s to introduce Public Service Integrity Legislation in the Virgin Islands. Prior Virgin Islands Governments have recognised the need for a framework to guide, support and assure that the conduct of public affairs by public officials conforms with the internationally accepted standards of integrity.
We are pushing the Good Governance standards forward. Your elected Government is serious about ensuring that we have the Integrity In Public Life Act and the Code of Conduct in place, and we have taken the initiative to make sure this happens.
The Premier’s Office will continue to champion the Integrity In Public Life Act 2020 because the implementation of such legislation will create a victorious Virgin Islands because it will promote transparency.
I have even said this when I was sitting on the Opposition.
Now as the Leader of this current Administration, I am committed to bring forward this important piece of legislation and ensuring that it gets onto the law books.
By taking this leadership role we are signaling to the world that the people of the Virgin Islands are committed to the highest standards of conduct in public affairs. Virgin Islanders are not afraid of accountability and transparency, but, to the contrary, we embrace these principles, as we have for generations.
Your Government will be engaging stakeholders so that people are consulted prior to the conclusion of this exercise.
I renew my pledge, and that of your Government, to place the people of the Virgin Islands first at all times, as well as the full commitment of my Administration, to integrity, the rule of law, transparency, accountability, stability, democratic principles, prosperity for the Virgin Islands, and to safeguard the rights of all who call the Virgin Islands home and ensure that those rights are fully respected and protected.
May God continue to guide and protect the people of the Virgin Islands always.
I thank you.