“I’m accountable for UK money,” were the words of the United Kingdom appointed Governor, His Excellency, Mr Augustus J. U. Jaspert, in reference to concerns raised by Opposition Member Hon Julian Fraser, RA that monies from the UK should be recorded through a Government apparatus like the treasury, instead of some being funnelled directly to the Governor.
Governor Jaspert made his position clear at a February 4, 2020, press conference at his office in Road Town, Tortola, that he is held to a different standard regarding his direct management of UK funds.
The Governor's response came following questions from the media regarding Hon Fraser’s disposition that the state should be receiving UK funding first.
Use treasury to receive funds – Hon Fraser
Hon Fraser had complained during the budget debate in the House of Assembly (HoA) in December 2019, “I have a problem with the fact that the Governor receives money from the United Kingdom and no one in government knows how it’s used, where it is, how it’s recorded,” he said.
The senior member of the HoA also said: “The governor receives $400,000 from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. My suggestion is that it be recorded in the medium-term fiscal plan. Whatever money is coming into this country should be recorded, and reflected in our treasury,” Fraser argued.
Governor Jaspert in his response explained that different categories of money come to the VI, as such, some are handled by government agencies and some are handled by the Governor and his office directly.
“This house [Governor's residence], for example, is the responsibility of the Government of the Virgin Islands but the government of the UK took a decision to support,” he said.
That support he said came in the form of repairs to the Governor home and office in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria of 2017, and that funding was handled by the Governor with the VI Government still taking on further repair works.
The Governor said the UK has given £10M to support the operational expense of the recovery of the Virgin Islands and that is being managed through the Recovery and Development Agency (RDA), a statutory body.
'I'm responsible to the UK Parliament' – Gov Jaspert
“So it’s really about what the money is for, I’m accountable for UK money when it comes here so that money is channelled through me because I am responsible to the UK Parliament, and to the UK," Governor Jaspert told the local press.
The Governor said, with reference to Hon Fraser’s concerns, that in instances where funding must go through him, it is in accordance with accountability terms ahead of the funds being allocated for its purpose.
Political pundits and social commentators have long suspected that the UK's setting up of the RDA was a direct result of mistrust in the Government of the VI to manage its own recovery funding under the then Dr D. Orlando Smith led National Democratic Party (NDP) administration.