As public outcry mounts, Premier Fahie said they were instrumental in pushing for the insurance behind closed doors.
However, Opposition Leader Hon. Marlon Penn said, while Hon. Melvin Mitch Turnbull was the lead on the initiative, the RFP was released without their knowledge despite the absence of Turnbull’s report and his calls for it to be shelved because the scope of the insurance had ventured beyond the intended purpose.
They are now calling for the RFP to be discontinued.
The matter of the private insurance came up recently through a Request For Proposal (RFP) that was seeking insurance companies to bid for a group health insurance for members of the HoA for a period of five years with an option to renew annually.
Among the terms of reference, the RFP said it should provide worldwide 24 hours a day coverage, 24-hour customer service call center access, substantial term life insurance for insured and dependents to include accidental death and dismembered benefits, disability insurance, maternity, mental/nervous health conditions, air ambulance and mortal remains coverage etcetera, covering a total of 41 areas.
In an invited comment on Sunday, Premier Fahie told BVI Platinum: “During the course of this week, I will give a response, but what I will say is that members of the Opposition who were instrumental in progressing this matter from the inception have released statements that clearly show that they are up to their usual deception where they are divorced from the truth.”
He added, “I can assure the public that whatever is in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands will be the only course of action.”
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Hon. Penn, via a statement issued on Sunday, said members of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition have expressed their disappointment and concern regarding the matter at hand.
He said the RFP for private health insurance coverage was advertised in the media, despite there being no consensus by all members of HoA to issue such notice.
“The Members of the Opposition do not support the recently advertised RFP as it did not follow the agreed upon process of a report from the lead member (Hon. Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull), on this initiative,” he noted.
Hon. Penn further said Opposition members disclosed that in reviewing recommendations and studies made to former Legislative Assembly’s, a proposal was introduced to the HoA for supplemental health care insurance to be considered for current and former members.
He said a Steering Group was subsequently established with the specific terms of reference being agreed to, and as a result of his experience and expertise in the insurance field, Hon. Turnbull, was appointed lead of the initiative.
Hon. Penn said the goal of the group was to explore the feasibility of the recommendations made by the HoA members.
“Further, the members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition were assured that the Steering Group needed the concurrence of the lead member, who under the terms of reference was required to provide a report to the HoA informing members on whether a proposal to procure private health care insurance was ready for tender, along with recommendations on how to proceed,” Hon. Penn stated.
He added that the Opposition discussed the findings of the Steering Group following an informal meeting of the HoA held on April 27th 2021, and the proposal before the Steering Group for review included benefits that were neither a part of nor discussed in the informal meeting.
Hon. Penn through the statement that of particular concern was the proposal for life insurance benefit.
“As such, we agreed that we could no longer support the proposal which had now gone beyond its intended purpose. The lead member, the Honourable member for the 2nd District’s request to submit his report recommending that the proposal along with the tender be shelved was ignored, and the RFP was released. Much like the public, we were made aware via media reports that a RFP was issued and had no such prior knowledge of the notice for RFP,” Hon. Penn stated.
He also said they never received any official notice of the issuance of the RFP nor have they seen the tender documents.
“It is equally concerning that we are only now officially notified, and only as a result of the lead member’s letter to the Speaker of the HoA dated June 4, 2021, expressing concern that his report, which was yet to be submitted, was pre-empted by the decision to issue the tender without his report, nor was he involved in the finalisation of the tender document. The Members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, as a group, categorically state that the position of the Opposition was not fully or properly considered,” Hon. Penn shared.
The statement also pointed out that Opposition Members said, whilst they empathise with the original objectives for exploring this issue and the proposal, “we believe that it is not wise to advance matters of such serious implications, without full and due consideration.”
“We, therefore, also strongly urge the HoA to recognise that it is neither appropriate nor desirable to continue with this initiative in its current form. Subsequent to the April 27th informal meeting, our position was, and still is, that the HoA should not proceed with the tender, and therefore we request that it be recalled immediately, particularly in light of the lead members’ request that the RFP be discontinued,” Hon. Penn noted.