Beautiful Virgin Islands

Thursday, Mar 23, 2023

BVI’s legislature too small to serve territory — Fraser

BVI’s legislature too small to serve territory — Fraser

Opposition Leader Julian Fraser has contended that the composition of the House of Assembly (HOA) is much too inadequate to properly facilitate the needs of the territory.
Fraser made the claim as lawmakers debated the merits of the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP) which was laid in the HOA yesterday, February 2.

Fraser said he felt the executive – the governing body of the territory – was already overwhelmed and overworked in the execution of their duties. He then questioned how other lawmakers in the HOA were expected to get things done with the scant resources at their disposal.

“The first thing I would say also is that the House of Assembly is too small. The legislature is too small to serve the territory. You’ve got a House of Assembly as it is right now with five ministers of 13 members,” Fraser argued.

In holding the executive to account – a task he deemed as critical and one of the legislature’s main priorities – Fraser suggested that the HOA was stymied by its meagre means.

“What about the rest of us? Where are the resources that we do need in order to fulfil the obligations of the House of Assembly?” Fraser asked. “Without resources, how can you [hold the executive accountable]?”

Fraser also pointed out that there are even committees set up in the HOA that never meet.

Reports gathering dust in HOA

“I’m sitting here [in the HOA] and it’s just me,” he said. “I don’t mean, I don’t have any other members in the Opposition. I mean, it’s just me when I look back and there’s nobody [assisting] me.”

The lawmaker argued that a look at any other developed legislature would show that they have staff serving in legal, accounting and administrative capacities who help with research and advice.

“We don’t have that. Without that, the government public service cannot function properly. The government public service will never ever be any better than it is,” he argued.

Fraser asserted that it was the duty of lawmakers to act as the government’s conscience and said without the necessary focus placed on resources, this could not be achieved.

The lawmaker shared that reports are compiled and sent to the HOA, and instead of being scrutinised by lawmakers as they should, they are instead left to sit on a shelf and gather dust.

“Our committees are supposed to call those public servants in and have them know their shortcomings, and hold them accountable to it,” Fraser said. “Because if they don’t live up to their responsibilities, when the budget comes to the House, the monies they’re asking for, they wouldn’t get it.”

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