British Virgin Islands

Monday, Apr 19, 2021

Gov’t ‘removing legal barriers’ so COI can access privileged info easily

Gov’t ‘removing legal barriers’ so COI can access privileged info easily

The Andrew Fahie-led government is moving to amend the BVI’s law books to remove “any legal barriers” that could prevent elected/appointed members of the House of Assembly (HOA) from sharing information held inside the territory’s Register of Interests.

Effectively, the Register of Interests is a record kept of the financial interests of legislators. Its purpose is to give them the mechanism to publicly declare any private interests which may conflict or maybe perceived to conflict with their public duties.

But under Section 9 of the BVI’s Register of Interests Act, the register cannot be open for inspection, except under specific circumstances such as court order.

Snippet of Section 9 of the Virgin Islands Register of Interests Act, 2006.

The Fahie administration said it will amend that section to assist the Commission of Inquiry to access such information “without any legal impediments”.

In a statement Tuesday night, the government said: “We will be seeking to amend the Register of Interests Act by inserting an additional circumstance in which the Register of Interests may be open for inspection, namely at the written request of a Commissioner of Inquiry (COI).”

“The amendment would further permit the Registrar of Interests to provide the Commissioner of the COI with a copy of pages from the Register of Interests,” the statement further said.

It continued: “It is important to note that amending the Register of Interests Act is something your government sees as essential because we believe in the spirit of cooperation and transparency at all levels. As a responsible government, we see the need for this amendment to the Register of Interests Act.

Changes to be made in upcoming HOA

The amendment will be introduced at the next sitting of the HOA which commences tomorrow.

The Fahie administration further pledged to continue to foster a transparent COI “to allow for a just outcome”.

In the meantime, this move to amend the territory’s Register of Interest Act is in keeping with the government’s decision to establish an Inquiry Response Unit (IRU).

The IRU was established on February 5, 2021 — roughly two weeks after former governor Augustus Jaspert ordered the COI to investigate whether corruption, abuse of office, or other serious dishonesty may have taken place amongst public, elected and statutory officials in recent years.


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