According to the Section 67(3)(e) of the Virgin Islands Constitution Order, 2007 (U.K.S.I. 2007 No. 1678), “an elected member of the House of Assembly shall vacate his or her seat if the member becomes a party to a contract with the Government of the Virgin Islands for or on account of the public service, or if any firm in which the member is or becomes a partner, or a company of which the member is or becomes a director or manager becomes a party to a contract with the Government of the Virgin Islands.”
Section 67(7) of the Constitution; however, provides that if in the circumstances it appears just to do so, the House of Assembly may exempt an elected member from vacating his or her seat under subsection (3)(e) if the member, before becoming a party to a contract, or before or as soon as practicable after becoming interested in a contract with the Government of the Virgin Islands by virtue of being a partner in a firm or director or manager in a company which has a contract with the Government, discloses to the House of Assembly the nature of the contract and his or her interest in the firm or company involved in the contract.
According to the Order Paper for the Tenth Sitting of the Third Session of the Fourth House of Assembly (HoA) held virtually today, July 29, 2021, Caribbean Security Limited, which provides security services and related systems installation, was hired by the Ministry of Finance on April 8, 2021, to provide services for the installation of access control, video surveillance and burglar alarm in the Department of Information Technology/Telephone Services Management, Inland Revenue and Treasury Departments and for additional installation including building wild fire system at relocation offices located at Skelton Bay Lots, Fish Bay, Tortola, for a total contract sum of seventy-two thousand nine hundred and seventeen dollars and fifty-six cents ($72,917.56).
Additionally, Caribbean Security Limited was hired by the Ministry of Finance on November 26, 2020, to provide services for the installation of ICT equipment for the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) at identified locations in Tortola for a total contract sum of ninety-nine thousand two hundred and eighty-five dollars (US $99,285.00).
Members of the Opposition, in particular Opposition Leader Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8), had sought to suggest that the Member had violated the Constitution by not seeking early exemption for the contract made since November 2020.
According to the mover of the Motions, Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1), Hon Smith is not in violation of the law.
“I would like to say that according to the law, the Honourable Member has done nothing outside of the confines of the law,” Hon Fahie said.
He also called for certain laws to be amended to give definite time periods, as the words ‘as soon as practicable’ in the law regarding the exemption came into question.
Hon Penn had argued that Hon Smith had more than ample time to seek exemption for the contract made in November 2020.
The motion for the contract made with Government in April 2021 was passed without going to a vote; however the motion for exemption for the contract made in November 2020 was taken to a vote.
Eight Members voted in favour, one abstained and 3 were absent.
Absent were At Large Representative and Junior Minister for Trade and Economic Development, Hon Shereen D. Flax-Charles; Opposition Leader Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8); and Second District Representative and Opposition Member Hon Melvin M. Turnbull.
Third District Representative Hon Julian Fraser RA abstained.
Hon Smith was not allowed to vote on the motion.
The motion for the contract made with Government in April 2021 was passed without going to a vote; however the motion for exemption for the contract made in November 2020 was taken to a vote. Eight Members voted in favour, one abstained and 3 were absent.