Premier's Office
Good Governance
Release Date:
Tuesday, 31 October 2023 - 1:46pm

Update on the Implementation of the COI Recommendations

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to provide another update on the progress the Government of the Virgin Islands has been making with respect to our implementation of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry as outlined in the June 2022 Framework Agreement.

From the inception, my ministerial colleagues and I have been committed to ensuring that these reforms are implemented, as we see them as being able to improve the delivery of transparent, effective, and accountable Government in the Virgin Islands. This is not a box-ticking exercise, and great care is being exercised as we conduct these reforms, so that the maximum benefit can be reaped for our people and our Territory. The same level of pride and purpose is evident in our public officers, who have been working very hard over the past 16-odd months in this transformation process, for which they will be able to hold their heads high and claim ownership. It is the same positive and constructive spirit that the Government has when we interact with internal and external partners, whether it is from one local ministry to the Governor’s Group or another ministry, or with the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office and its representatives.

Madam Speaker, at the end of September 2023, 24 out of the 50 Recommendations have been completed outright, and 26 of the Recommendations have some form of Action being worked on currently.

Madam Speaker, I would have explained on prior occasions that the Recommendations are currently split into 131 Actions. Of these, 79 or 60 percent are completed; 17 or 13 percent are in progress and on track; 24 or 18 percent are in progress but experiencing challenges and 11 scheduled Actions or 8 percent have not been started as yet. It is important to bear in mind that all recommendations do not comprise of the same number of Actions, and therefore the progress achieved far exceeds that which a coarse interpretation of these numbers might suggest.

Madam Speaker, the Framework Agreement outlined 12 official reviews, 10 of which have been completed. The last of the reviews completed thus far is being tabled in this Honourable House today, on the 31 October, 2023. The Review for Recommendation 24 was conducted by Mrs. Antoinette Skelton, and assisted by Mr. Nelson Samuel for the portion on the BVI Social Security Board. It was a focussed assessment on the state of our Statutory Boards in terms of their overall level of governance, including financial and human resource management. The resulting critical analysis included feedback from the Statutory Boards and analysis for the twelve Statutory Boards that responded to the Reviewer within the timeframe given. Thus, only 12 of the 18 Statutory Boards to be reviewed are covered in the tabled Review.

Of the remaining six Statutory Boards that were included in this review but which did not respond in time, four have since submitted their responses.

All Statutory Boards, including those not included in this assessment will be covered by the general Statutory Board policy, which will lay out Government’s expectations for their governance. These expectations are not expected to be overly onerous but will fall in line with the OECD Guidelines for agencies directly connected with Government and the public purse.

Madam Speaker, it is important to note that the information gathered, analysis done and recommendations made in this Review and all other Reviews completed thus far, are being considered by the appropriate Ministries, with cross Government input and Action Plans submitted to Cabinet to carry forward all the appropriate actions that will emanate from the Reviews.

Madam Speaker, I had previously reported that during the process of implementing the Recommendations, it was recognised that some of the deadlines were ambitious. It became evident as work ensued that in order to deliver the quality of results that we are aiming for in those areas, the scope and timelines would have to be revised from the preliminary estimates.

Therefore, Madam Speaker, during the month of September 2023, I responded to the Minister for Overseas Territories’ request, through the Governor, to update the deadlines agreed in the June 2022 Framework Agreement based on the status of the work now. I will now provide a summary of the general reasons behind the delay in the implementation process and the Framework Recommendations affected.

Constitutional Review

  • The Constitutional Review Commission experienced administrative delays at the start of their process, which affected the start of the public consultation phase by some months. Additionally, once commenced, the level of public responsiveness was so high that the Commission extended the public consultation segment to ensure that it heard from as many interested persons as possible. I understand that, despite the end of January deadline for comments, the Commission has continued to receive comments since then, including two in recent weeks. Thus, the Commission requested the full 18 months allotted to it. This affects Recommendation A2: Constitutional Review.

May I interject here, Madam Speaker, that this kind of interest and participation from the public in the review of our Constitution and the development of proposals for the constitutional relationships between Virgin Islanders and their elected Government, between the elected Government and the UK Government and its representatives, and between Virgin Islanders and the UK Government and its representatives, indicates a strong passion among the Virgin Islands people to have a direct say in their own Governance; and this is the essence of Constitutional Government. So, to be delayed due to high interest and participation should not be viewed as something that is negative. To the contrary, it is very positive under the standards of British Constitutionalism.

I am very pleased, Madam Speaker to learn that the Commission is about to conclude its mandate, and is expected to submit its report within the coming weeks.

Additionally, there were Recommendations that will depend on the Constitutional Review to be completed in order for them to be carried out. This includes Recommendation B43, which deals with the Jury Act.

Drafting, Election and HOA Delays

  • The Attorney General’s Chambers have had capacity limitations, which created a bottleneck after Cabinet’s approval for policy and new legislation. The Chambers had only two full time drafters to complete all the legislative drafting that was on track for 2022/2023 as well as the additional work created by the COI implementation. The Government of the Virgin Islands has expanded its drafting capabilities as well as taking further initiative in accessing additional temporary drafting services for this implementation period. Additionally, Honourable Members would recall, the Territory held General Elections in April 2023, consistent with all constitutional requirements. The dissolution of the House of Assembly, as is the standard procedure during the period leading up to Elections, delayed some of the legislative work being advanced. The holding of Elections expanded the particular Recommendation covering the Election Act to address the matters raised by the Supervisor of Elections and Observers. I can report that the Supervisor of Elections has submitted her report on the 2023 General Elections and Cabinet is expected to review shortly, following which the report will be tabled in this Honourable House and a determination will be made on addressing the report’s recommendations.


  • The following recommendations fall under this category:
  • B1: Commission of Inquiry Act
  • B4: Extension of Register of Interests
  • B5: Declaring HOA Interests
  • B30: Review of Process of Disposal of Crown Land
  • B42: Update Criminal Procedure Rules
  • OR1: Other Reform - Election Act

Reviewers/Audits Need More Time/ Reviewer Late Appointment

  • The Governor and I had a few challenges in selecting the right reviewers for certain important Recommendations, which resulted in some reviews being completed later than we had originally planned for. Certainly, while this would have impacted on the time factor, because this is not a box-ticking exercise, we have been better served by making the extra effort and sacrifice to ensure these reviews were done by the best available reviewers. The Actions that were dependent on the completion of these reviews were thus delayed somewhat. Additionally, a few reviewers reverted asking for more time in order to complete their remit in the most comprehensive manner. Additionally, the Audit Department has found the volume of material to be considerably more than was originally anticipated and requested additional time. For the two law enforcement reviews, delays in appointing reviewers who would be able to complete the reviews caused the reviews to begin after the deadline for completion had passed.
  • This has affected the following Recommendations:
  • A3: Discretionary Powers;
  • A4: Audits and Investigations;
  • B13: Audit of COVID Assistance Grants;
  • B18: Audit of Contracts Over $100,000;
  • B24 through B26: Statutory Boards Review;
  • B33: Review of Residency & Belonger Status;
  • B38: Review of Law Enforcement Agencies;
  • B41: Facilitating Fight Against Crime; and
  • OR2: Wickham’s Cay Land Lease Agreements Review

Require Further Public and Other Consultation

  • The Government has recognised that while reform must be done in a timely and expedited manner, the public must be informed and their views must be reflected in the reform for it to be sustainable and meaningful. This is the essence of democratic, constitutional Government. As such, a few Recommendations needed to include an extended period of public consultation. Additionally, there were Recommendations that impacted specific groupings that had to be tested before being implemented into legislation.
  • This has affected the following :

B7: Review Assistance Grants Recommendation;
B11: Review of Grants for Educational Purposes;
B33: Review of the Processes for the Grant of Residency and Belonger Status;
B36: Public Service Management Act; and
B45: Complaints Commissioner

I would like, Madam Speaker, to highlight where we are on a few important reviews:

  • The Review of Social Assistance Grants (B7) has been completed. The Ministry has completed its public consultation and is currently conducting stakeholder consultations to ensure that all the departments and statutory boards that will be involved in fully actioning the changes that are being made, are fully involved in the reform process.
  • The Review of the Disposal of Crown Lands has been completed and the Ministry has started on drafting instructions for amending the relevant legislation. The Ministry is still engaged in public consultation. The next steps will be to send the drafting instructions to Cabinet for approval and then on to the 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 Process of issuing Residency and Belonger Status has been completed. The Ministry is in the midst of creating a draft policy that will go to Cabinet for approval after it completes its ongoing public consultation. Connected to this is the Immigration Action Plan, by which the Government has committed to addressing outstanding applications in a timely manner.

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, and he provided an update in his last quarterly review, so I need not give further details here.

Madam Speaker, the Government of the Virgin Islands holds an unwavering commitment to the implementation of the COI Recommendations and the Reform Process in general.

We will continue to maintain our momentum to complete the reform resulting from the Recommendations of the COI. I wish to make it abundantly clear that while the COI and the double-threat of partial suspension of the Virgin Islands Constitution and re-imposition of home rule through an Order in Council, did play a major role in the events that led up to this accelerated reform programme, these have never been the leading motivations for the mission we are embarked upon. We have always been public in stating our belief that this process benefits our Territory and our people, and is necessary for us to advance in every way. We press on because our strong history of continuous advancement and reform must continue to serve us all and the generations to come.

Madam Speaker, I thank you.


Department of Information and Public Relations (GIS)

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