The motion to reprimand Governor Augustus Jaspert for his reported violation of the Audit Act failed when it came to a vote in the House of Assembly Friday evening, June 5.
The motion in question sought to reprimand the governor who is said to have violated Section 20(2) of Act when he neglected to deliver the Auditor General’s special report about the BVI Airways within the legally-prescribed three-month timeframe.
Of the total 13 elected members of the House, only two voted in favour of the reprimand — government minister Dr Natalio Wheatley, and the mover of the motion, Julian Fraser.
Besides Dr Wheatley who voted ‘yes’ and Territorial At-Large Representative Shereen Flax-Charles who was absent at the time of the vote, all other legislators on the Premier Andrew Fahie-led government voted ‘no’.
No support from Opposition
Over on the four-member Opposition where Fraser sits, both Eighth District Representative Marlon Penn and Second District Representative Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull voted ‘no’. The Fourth District Representative, Mark Vanterpool, was also absent at the time of the vote.
The majority votes against the reprimand follow hours of debate and after Attorney General Baba Aziz argued that the motion may result in a number of constitutional and jurisdictional difficulties.
Speaking in the House on Friday, Aziz said: “If you look at the Audit Act, it imposes a duty on the Governor by Section 22 to cause a special report to be laid before the House of Assembly, it does not address Cabinet’s responsibility under Section 47, 3 of the Constitution.”
“Additionally, it does not even address the manner by which the Governor is to cause the special report to be laid before the House,” Aziz added.
Further speaking on how the motion would have affected the governor if it had been successful, the Attorney General stated: “An official must only fear the authority that can remove him and that in the performance of his functions, he must obey that authority. The Governor is an appointee and representative of Her Majesty’s government of the United Kingdom.”
Outside legal opinions
Speaker of the House Julian Willock had also presented legal opinions from two outside parties.
Willock did not disclose the names of the two legal counsels, but said one was a local veteran counsel and the other an overseas constitutional expert, who both drew the same conclusion.
According to the Speaker, both parties concluded that the House of Assembly has the legal and constitutional right to question the actions of the Governor, and can debate a motion to reprimand the Governor for his reported violations of the Audit Act.
The two outside legal parties, however, noted that the House has no authority to penalise Governor Jaspert.
“It is important to note, according to the two legal independent opinions, although the Governor is the Queen’s representative, there are stark differences between the two institutions. One such difference is that unlike the Queen’s, the decision of the Governor can be challenged in court,” Willock added while outlining the opinions of the legal counsels.
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