Senior Opposition legislator Julian Fraser has moved a motion in the House of Assembly to have Governor Augustus Jaspert reprimanded for violating the Audit Act.
Speaking in the House on Thursday, Fraser accused the governor of ‘brazenly’ failing to deliver the Auditor General’s special report about BVI Airways within the legally-prescribed timeframe.
According to the Virgin Islands Audit Act of 2003, “the governor shall, within three months of the receipt of the special report, cause the report to be laid before the Legislative Council (the House of Assembly)”.
Governor Jaspert is said to have received the report in question on January 27 this year. However, it was only brought to the House on May 28, four months later.
In moving his motion, Fraser, therefore, said: “Be it resolve that this honourable House reprimand the Governor for violating Section 20(2) of the Audit Act 2003, and obstructing the duties of the House of Assembly under Section 47, 3, of the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007.”
“The Audit Act in no uncertain terms describes that the report shall be laid on the table in this honourable House within three months of receipt from the date of the report. It is now four months and one day since that report was submitted and received on the 27th of January,” he added.
The Opposition legislator said he believes Governor Jaspert had ample time to review and submit the report to Cabinet, which would then bring it to the House.
Fraser further said he believes if no one holds the Governor accountable for such actions, the behaviour will persist in the foreseeable future.
“I have every reason to believe that there is some form of a cavalier attitude towards this honourable House coming out of the Governor’s Office and it has to stop. I think that if we don’t call him out on this behaviour it will continue,” the Opposition legislator argued.
Governor’s action to have HOA meet an “overreach”
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Assembly Julian Willock was also vocal in his disapproval of Governor Jaspert for a related issue.
Willock expressed strong disapproval for what he said was the governor’s attempt to summon the House to meet at a date which would have caused the report to be laid before members within the statutory deadline.
Willock, who is the head of the Legislative Council as Speaker of the House, said he believes the action by the Governor was “an overreach [and] as an interference in the Legislative branch”.
“In correspondence to the Premier dated 24th April 2020, the Governor sort to “strongly urge” the House of Assembly to meet on 7th May 2020, in order for the statutory time period of three months is complied with,” the Speaker said.
He added: “The Governor cannot dictate to the Legislative branch when they should meet and even suggesting a date. He cannot compel the leader of government business in writing to meet as the Standing Orders outlined how meetings are called and how Members are summoned.”
Willock also said he wrote a letter to the Governor outlining his position on the matter.
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