By Kamal Haynes, BVI News Staff
The Andrew Fahie led administration has been a strong proponent of accountability and transparency in the territory, yet most decisions made by Cabinet remain a mystery to residents since February 2020 when the government stopped publishing Cabinet’s post-meeting statements.
A Cabinet post-meeting statement usually consists of a summary of all the decisions made by government during a specific sitting, and is published on government’s various platforms to be accessible to residents and the media.
Since the advent of COVID-19 in the territory, BVI News observed that instead of posting the full decisions made in a particular sitting, the government has otherwise been handpicking certain information and making them public through media conferences, speeches and press releases.
Our news centre made several attempts to contact Premier Fahie to question why the publishing of Cabinet decisions had been halted, but all efforts were unsuccessful.
Opposition Leader Marlon Penn said he noticed the change and said the government’s accountability had receded significantly since taking office.
Penn, therefore, called for the government to return to the previous practice of making Cabinet decisions fully available to the public.
“The absence of the publishing of Cabinet decisions for the past 10 months is a retrograde step and a black eye to the steps made by the previous Cabinet to ensure transparency, accountability and good governance regarding the decisions the five Cabinet members make on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands,” Penn stated.
“The government continues to hide behind of the COVID pandemic and is not managing the territory’s affairs in a manner that is expected of them. The most egregious example is the lack of a national plan, the latest is this lack of transparency by not publishing the Cabinet decisions,” he added.
The importance of being informed on Cabinet Decision
The Opposition legislator also spoke to the importance of having Cabinet decisions being accessible to residents.
Using a recent example which occurred only last week, he showed the potential consequences that uninformed residents can experience without having the necessary information.
“It is important that Cabinet decisions are made public not just for the sake of transparency, accountability and good governance but especially in this COVID-19 period that we’re going through where businesses, members of the public and our visitors, need to be made aware — in a timely manner — of the policy decisions or policy shifts made by our government. Decisions that, if not communicated timely, have far-reaching socio-economic consequences,” he stated.
“For example, a decision that was allegedly made by the Cabinet on December 30th to move the date for the reopening of the seaports to March 1st from January 21st was only communicated to the public on Monday [January 11] through a rushed last-minute statement which, had it not been for information leaked by a private citizen on social media, we might not have known until hours before, like the previously delayed opening of the same seaports where a decision to postpone the reopening from December 8th, 2020 to January 21st, 2021, was communicated on December 7th, 2020,” Penn argued.
Fight will continue until it’s restored
Penn also said has been trying to get answers from the Premier, and claimed he will not give up until Cabinet decisions revert to its usual publications.
“I, however, requested that the information be made public in our last Standing Finance deliberations and I will continue to demand this and every citizen should demand that this information be made public for transparency and good governance,” Penn claimed.
“If this continues to occur where this administration continues to cherry-pick what information they choose to make public, it will undermine the tenets of good governance the Premier continues to speak about. We know one of the Premier’s favourite sayings is that ‘you cannot be private in public office’. He should live up to his words and not just say them and not continue to contradict them,” he added.
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