Major concerns about a lack of transparency in government spending and about intimidation and victimisation in the public sector have reached the Governor’s Office and are being investigated.
This was revealed by Governor Augustus Jaspert during a media briefing on Thursday. He said a number of concerns and allegations have been brought to him by members of the community.
“First, many persons are concerned about transparency when it comes to public projects and funds. The Auditor General has written numerous reports detailing the common problems in this area. Tender waivers, interference, contract splitting and inflated prices being a few examples. As you know investigations are on the way on some matters which I cannot comment on,” Governor Jaspert stated.
Auditor General’s recommendations ignored
Governor Jaspert said the findings from the Auditor General reports often — many of which suggest solutions to address discrepancies or issues — are not being utilised in some cases, therefore raising red flags about some of the territory’s accountability systems.
“The recommendations from the audit reports have not always been actioned and raises concerns that our systems remain vulnerable. I know that many people are troubled by this, particularly in relation to government contracts and the recent stimulus funds. Each concern is exasperated by the fact that details of government spending is not always readily available to the public and our institutions of good governance. Many have asked whether the territory’s governance is operating with the level of integrity and fairness that it should, and this question warrants some consideration,” he explained.
Thorough investigations may be hindered due to lack of legislation
While emphasising the need for a thorough investigation on these serious allegations, Governor Jaspert said the lack of legislation to support the measures that will need to be taken will hinder the process.
He said: “One thing we can be sure is that a robust, holistic and impartial investigation is required to reassure the people of the BVI. Regrettably, our local institutions have told us that they may be hindered in carrying this out without legislation and full frameworks in place to give them the mandate to do so. We will continue to assess what needs to be done as we find out more.”
He added: “In response, the Deputy Governor and I continue to speak to our local institutions about how we address these challenges. The Auditor General, the Commissioner of Police, the Complaints Commissioner, the Financial Investigations Agency and the Registrar of Interest have already been doing important work in specific areas of concern and we are discussing what more can be done.”
Growing culture of fear with victimisation and intimidation
The Governor further said members of the community also brought to him some serious allegations surrounding intimidation and victimisation in the territory.
“These have been put to me by a number of individuals in senior positions across the public service, even from some in the media industry and in our community. I will not go into specific details as they were shared in confidence, but some have described a growing culture of fear, strong allegations which we cannot brush aside,” he stated.
“I want to be clear, no one in this territory should be afraid to raise a concern. It is a constitutional right to have freedom of speech and everyone should be able to do their job without fear or favour. My office and Deputy Governor’s Office is always opened to any individual seeking to raise a concern or ask for help. We will put in place a process for those to be shared in confidence,” the Governor added.
In the meantime, Governor Jaspert said he will be working with the Officer of the Deputy Governor to bring forward measures to strengthen local institutions in response to concerns raised. These included the ‘Integrity in Public Life Act’ which he said will aim to bolster the ability of the institutions to assure accountability.
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