British Virgin Islands

Thursday, Jun 24, 2021

Legislators health insurance tender process halted- Dr the Hon Wheatley

Legislators health insurance tender process halted- Dr the Hon Wheatley

Acting Premier and Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture Dr The Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) said the matter of supplemental health insurance coverage for former and current members of the House of Assembly (HoA) is going back to the drawing board and the tender process put on hold.

The matter has been a hot topic lately when the Request For Proposal (RFP) went out to tender. Since then the Opposition has distanced their selves from the matter, and Government members have called them out on it.

The matter has seen a public outcry from some members of the public led by elements sworn only to frustrate the efforts of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) Government.

Opposition Member Honourable Melvin M. Turnbull (R2), who reportedly was the one to advance the matter of supplemental insurance and was given the responsibility to help move it forward, publicly stated in a letter that he had advised that the matter not go out to tender until a study is conducted.

Further, a statement from Opposition Leader Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8) on June 6, 2021, said Members of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition have expressed their disappointment and concern regarding the request for proposals (RFP) for private health insurance coverage for current and former HoA members.

The statement also alleged that the plan advertised in the media comes despite there being no consensus by all members of the HoA to issue such notice.

Matter should not be shrouded in controversy


“Notwithstanding the political pandering and flip-flopping from the Opposition …your Government has taken a decision to halt the tender for the insurance service for current and former HOA Members, so that we can have further deliberations among the Members of the HoA and also to consider the views of the public on the matter,” Dr Natalio Wheatley said via a statement issued on June 8, 2021.

“It is your Government’s position that an important matter such as how we care for our former Legislators in their golden years and on their passing, should not be shrouded in discord and controversy. To re-emphasise the assurance given by the Honourable Premier on this matter, whatever is in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands will be the only course of action,” he said.

He too called out Honourable Turnbull’s actions and the Opposition Leader Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8) that he called duplicitous and deceptive.

'Blatant untruths' by Opposition


“It is clear from the press release issued by the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, dated 7 June, 2021, that most Opposition Members are trying to distance themselves from the issue now that they perceive it to be a hot potato – having supported the position all along for supplemental insurance coverage for current and past legislators. But what is more important than the political flip-flopping by the Members of the Opposition are the blatant untruths in their statements as regards the chain of events leading up to the issue of the RFP,” he said.

Like the Junior Minister Hon Sharie B. de Castro, Dr Wheatley said Honourable Turnbull was the lead member on the insurance matter, and he was the one who brought it up in the HoA.

Dr Wheatley said Turnbull and the other members of the Opposition did not have any objections to what was being proposed either, despite their claims now or that it needed to be placed on hold pending a study.

Opposition was consulted & raised no objections


“Contrary to the assertions of the Leader of the Opposition as well as the Representative for the 2nd District

Honourable Melvin Turnbull was consulted by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) on the contents of the RFP prior to and up to its publication, and the Member raised no concerns throughout the entire process in the nature that he is claiming today. The Representative for the 2nd District had no major objections to the RFP, although minor changes were suggested, and he did not ask for the RFP to be held back,” Dr Whealtey argued.

He also said the Member for the 2nd District had indicated to the Committee of Privileges that the matter of insurance was a long outstanding issue, it needed to be dealt with early, and it had his full support as the previous Government was afraid to touch it.

"Consequently, the sub-Committee of Privileges in 2019 held a series of meetings to iron out all the details for the insurance and agreed to meet with three local insurance companies recommended by the Member for the 2nd District to advise on what was needed to proceed. The Member for the 2nd District– as the lead Member - held the preliminary meetings with the three insurance companies and then reported to the Committee, after which the companies made presentations to the Committee,” the Acting Premier said.

Despite being consulted on the matter and raising no objections, when there was a public outcry a statement from Opposition Leader Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8) on June 6, 2021, said Members of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition have expressed their disappointment and concern regarding the request for proposals (RFP) for private health insurance coverage for current and former HoA members.

Second District Representative and Opposition Member Hon Melvin M. Turnbull was the architect behind the private health insurance for present and former legislators but has now distanced himself from it following public outcry.

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