STATEMENT BY THE PREMIER
HONOURABLE DR. NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
AT THE THIRD SITTING OF THE FIRST SESSION
OF THE FIFTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
THURSDAY 7TH SEPTEMBER, 2023
Update on the Implementation of the COI Recommendations
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to come before this Honourable House to provide another update on the implementation of the COI recommendations as outlined in the Framework Agreement of June 2022.
Ministries are currently preparing their updates as of 31st August, 2023, but I can report that work has now begun on all of the Recommendations.
As of the end of July 2023, 24 out of the 50 Recommendations have been completed outright and 26 of the Recommendations have some form of actions being worked on currently. The Recommendations are currently split into 131 Actions. Of these, 77 (59%) are completed, 41 (31%) are in progress and 13 (10%) have not been started as yet.
Madam Speaker, the Framework agreement outlined 12 official reviews. Ten of these reviews have been completed. The only two outstanding reviews now are Recommendation B38 – review of the law enforcement and justice systems, and Recommendation B41, which will be the panel to ensure that the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and other law enforcement agencies have the facilities and powers to prevent, monitor and detect crime and prepare matters for prosecution. Both of these are under the Governor’s remit, so he would be best able to provide an update on these matters.
Additionally, seven official Audits were agreed. Five of these have been completed. The remaining two are the COVID Assistance Grants (which has been partially completed and this House has seen the completed portions) and contracts for over $100,000 approved from 2019-2022.
Madam Speaker, at the end of July, we launched “Government Business at its Best”, a Virgin Islands Modern Governance Approach. The purpose of this initiative is to inform and educate the public and stakeholders on Government’s continued reform initiatives going beyond the Framework recommendations. It is aimed at correcting inaccurate, misinformed or misleading perceptions about the work that the Government and public officers do. This is also in line with the Government’s commitment to transparency and accountability.
The “Government Business at its Best” initiative, Madam Speaker, seeks to show how the reform work will actually effect change and create new policies that will transform the Public Service for greater transparency, sustainability and accountability.
I would like to highlight where we are on a few important reviews:
- The Review of Social Assistance Grants (B7) has been completed and the Ministry has completed its public consultation and is currently doing stakeholder consultations to ensure that all the departments and Statutory Boards that will be involved in fully actioning the changes being made are fully involved in the reform process.
- The Review of Education Grants (B11) has been completed and the Ministry has completed its public consultation. The Ministry is updating the new policy with the feedback it received and then the policy will be sent back to Cabinet to be finalised.
- The Review of the Disposal of Crown Lands (B30) has been completed and the Ministry has started working on drafting instructions for amending the relevant legislation. The Ministry is in the midst of public consultation with an aim to send the drafting instructions to Cabinet for approval and then on to Attorney General’s Chambers, so this Honourable House can ensure that Crown Land transactions are done in a transparent and fair manner.
- The Review of the existing policy for granting Residence and Belonger Status (B33) has been completed. The Ministry is in the midst of creating a draft policy that will go to Cabinet for approval after public consultation. Connected to this is an Immigration Action Plan, by which the Immigration Department is committing to addressing outstanding applications in a timely manner.
Madam Speaker, it is important for me to note here that at the end of April, the membership of five members of the Board of Immigration expired. Since then, efforts were ongoing to have the Board reconstituted. In keeping with the Protocol for the Appointment and Removal of Statutory Board members, a vacancy notice was issued, applications were received, interviews were conducted and recommendations were made to Cabinet. Two former Board members were recently reappointed to serve another two-year term, while three new members have been appointed. This now brings the Board to its full composition. Additionally, Madam Speaker, the Immigration Department now has five additional staff to assist the Processing Unit with processing status applications.
Even without the full membership of the Board, applications continued to be screened and interviews conducted. With the Board now at full membership, the approximately 200 applications which received preliminary screening and interviews are now ready to be reviewed by the new Board.
Even without the full membership of the Board, screening of applications continued. With the Board now at full membership, the approximately 200 applications which received preliminary screening are now ready to be reviewed by the recently constituted Board, which I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday afternoon, Madam Speaker.
Madam Speaker, while there are ongoing challenges, we press on because our strong history of advancement and reform must continue to serve us all and the generations to come. I appreciate the efforts of our public officers who are a part of this effort.
I thank you, Madam Speaker.