Governor John Duncan has tried to explain why the amount of money he is forcing the Ministry of Finance to provide under warrants he has issued has jumped from $800,000 to $1.8 million.
He told journalists that the $800,000 he last week announced for the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) has not changed.
However, the governor is now seeking the remainder of the funds to cover legal services through the Attorney General Chambers, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, as well as the Magistrate’s and Supreme Courts.
He has particular interest in two cases now in the judicial system.
‘There are two major cases going on. One is currently in the press – the extradition case, and there is another case coming up which is as a result of accusations made against three RVIPF officers. I can’t go into the details as they are all currently sub judice,” Governor Duncan said.
The extradition case now before the court involve Earl ‘Bob’ Hodge and former Customs officer Robert ‘Tico’ Harrigan who are wanted in the United States for alleged drug running. In the other case, police officers Pamphill Prevost, Shawn Henry, and Simon Power were charged following an anti-corruption probe.
BVI News Online understands that, in addition to the magistrate who already was brought from overseas to hear the extradition case, funds also are being sought for prosecutors from abroad.
Governor Duncan, at a press briefing today (March 24) said the RVIPF is not the only entity facing a shortage of funds. Legal services are also a concern.
“In the papers that I put to the National Security Council, and in the discussion at that meeting last week, I explained my view that I was not satisfied that the shortfall in the RVIPF annual operating budget had been adequately addressed with the concomitant risks to the internal security of our territory… I have also made clear my concerns about the delays in disbursement of funds to both the RVIPF and the legal services of the territory,” Governor Duncan said.
He continued: “The $800,000 is what I see as the potential shortfall [for the RVIPF]. The Financial Secretary [Neil Smith] says some of that is already budgeted for. OK. So where is it? How much is it? What do we need from the Consolidated Fund? And that’s why I’ve asked in this warrant for them to explain.”
The governor further told journalists that the slow pace at which funds are being disbursed from the Ministry of Finance has posed a major challenge.
“The parts that were frozen were things like capital expenditure, for example, on things like vehicles… A lot of those funds that were going to be disbursed were frozen because we were not on a main budget,” added Governor Duncan.
He stated that, while the premier is working to address issues in other areas, he is ensuring that funds are provided for matters that fall under his direct watch.
“My concern is to deal with my particular responsibilities, notably internal security. The premier has got wider concerns about all the other budgets. I were to make sure that, as far as my responsibilities are concerned, we have clarity and we have quickness of disbursement than has been going on far too long with these very slow disbursements [and] delays, with the result that monies that were approved last year got frozen at the end of the year. Some of that’s capital, some of that maintenance. We can’t continue like that,” added Governor Duncan.
“Therefore, as far as I am concerned, this warrant [seeking $1.8 million] covers the areas that I am concerned about. The premier is working on the [other] areas. But yes, we are both concerned about the problems in the area of disbursement and quick payment of bills. It’s been a long-running problem that we have discussed many times.”
Peter to pay Paul
Governor Duncan, in the meantime, said he has met with Premier Dr D Orlando Smith to ensure the $1.8 million he is seeking does not affect other areas of the budget.
“The premier was here this morning and we had a good discussion about how to deal with this matter, and to make sure that we didn’t have a problem which is the one that he and I discussed; that there wasn’t a shift of funding from other areas in government to this area of internal security.”
“The (Premier Smith) and I are concerned that we make sure that, if there are additional funds required, they come from the Consolidated Fund so that we don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. That’s something that we are working together to make sure that doesn’t happen,” added Governor Duncan.
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