Statement by Premier and Minister of Finance
Honourable Andrew A. Fahie regarding Unsubstantiated Allegations
Thursday, 3 December, 2020
My dear people of the Virgin Islands, a pleasant good day and God’s blessings to you.
I have been alerted to some broad, vague and sweeping allegations made by His Excellency Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert at his press conference this morning.
These statements by the Governor warrant a comprehensive response from your Government as it has implications on the local, regional and international reputation of British Virgin Islands and how all Virgin Islanders are viewed by persons looking on.
It is unfortunate that Governor Jaspert has chosen to make these damaging and reckless statements when, by his own admission, the veracity of these allegations has not been established by him or any investigative body.
I am very concerned that the manner in which the Governor has chosen to make his ambiguous pronouncements, with broad statements and withholding even the most basic of details, assaults not just the integrity of all Members of your elected Government, but that of our honest, hardworking public officers who operate the machinery of our public service – and in particular those public officers whose roles include accounting and finance.
It is sad that this is the goodbye gift that Governor chooses to leave the people of the BVI with after they have showed him BVILOVE for the last four years.
The Governor’s deliberate withholding of the details of his allegations – even the most basic of details – makes it impossible for any of the persons he has tainted to defend themselves and their reputations in the public domain.
Without knowing what the allegations are, no one can provide a detailed response to wipe the mud that has been thrown on them. In the least, this kind of conduct is contrary to natural justice.
Governor Jaspert has made reference to the recent economic stimulus which your Government was able to devise through collaboration across all the relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies across the breadth of our public service, as well as with ideas received from private citizens through consultations, to help our Virgin Islands people to cope with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
As members of the public, you would recall that the funds for the economic stimulus programme were granted to the people of the Virgin Islands by the BVI Social Security Board (SSB) when the UK Government refused to provide COVID-19 grants for social support to Virgin Islanders. These funds were provided by the SSB based on a signed agreement that mandates how the money can and cannot be spent, and checks and balances that were approved by the Directors of the SSB to ensure that there is accountability for these funds.
With respect to funds from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) which is being applied to construction projects, in order to secure the release of funds the CDB had to give approval to our procurement methodologies and processes. We remain accountable to the CDB, as we are to the House of Assembly, for how these funds are spent and how value for money is achieved.
This is the level of accountability that your Government has been operating in the last 22 months.
With respect to legislation for accountability and Good Governance, your Government has expressed our commitment to strengthening these laws in the Speech from the Throne which was delivered by none other than Governor Jaspert on 5 November, 2020. Although the Speech from the Throne is read by the Governor, it is written by the BVI Government and states the Legislative Agenda of the BVI Government.
Your Government’s Legislative Agenda for the upcoming year includes bringing forward the Integrity in Public Life Bill, Witness Anonymity legislation, the amending the Criminal Conduct Act to make provisions for unexplained wealth which derives from corruption and criminal activity, and several pieces of legislation to strengthen our justice system.
Therefore, to cast aspersions on your Government’s commitment to accountability and transparency in public affairs is unfounded. To accuse your Government and our public officers of operating in any dishonest way with the handling of public contracts or the COVID-19 economic stimulus programme is without merit.
As I have indicated, the Governor’s allegations were broad, vague, ambiguous and without even the most basic of details. Governor Jaspert has admitted that the truthfulness or substance of these allegations has not been established by him or any investigative body. Until he provides details of his allegations, it is impossible for anyone to know what he is accusing them of and how they can repair their reputation.
Until Governor Jaspert provides these details, there is insufficient information to provide you with a more comprehensive response. However, once the allegations are made clear, your Government will be happy to provide a comprehensive reply. I hope His Excellency will provide the necessary clarity before his earlier-than-expected departure from the Territory in January 2021.
Until such time, your Government will remain steadfast in purpose and diligent in actions in the execution of our duties on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands.
May God continue to bless and protect His Virgin Islands people.
I thank you.