British Virgin Islands

Saturday, Dec 04, 2021

Penn says HOA ‘compromised’ as Speaker flip-flops on naming vendors

Penn says HOA ‘compromised’ as Speaker flip-flops on naming vendors

Controversy erupted in the House of Assembly (HOA) on Thursday as Speaker Julian Willock opted to block the disclosure of names of businesses to who the BVI Airports Authority (BVIAA) owes money.

Willock at first stated that the House had collectively agreed months ago that the names of companies could be publicised in the HOA.

However, he later changed his mind and said he would write to the Attorney General for advice before returning the matter to the House.

“At this time, we will not entertain [the publicising] companies’ names. I will write formally to the Honourable Attorney General to ask if there is any matter prohibiting companies names from coming to these chambers and we will be guided or discuss her findings,” Willock said.

HOA compromised! Speaker making up rules on the spot

Opposition Leader Marlon Penn then accused the Speaker of “making up the rules of the house on the fly”, seemingly in an effort to not contradict Premier Andrew Fahie’s position on the matter. Willock rejected that claim.

Opposition legislator Julian Fraser interjected and said there should be no need to write the AG on the matter, especially since she was present in the House at the time of the sitting and the issue could have been resolved after a simple recess.

But the Speaker, in turn, said his ruling on the issue was final and insisted on referring the matter to the AG, noting that she would need time to conduct research.

Penn suggested that the Speaker was not impartial since he always appeared to be siding with the government. “This house is compromised,” the Opposition Leader continuously said in a relatively hushed voiced.

How it all started

The entire conflict arose after Penn asked Premier Fahie for details of all monies the BVIAA owed to vendors, contractors, and individuals from January 1, 2019, through May 10, 2021.

Premier Fahie declined to release the full, detailed information; stating that it contains information of businesses and individuals’ names.

The Premier explained that disclosing names would violate Standing Order 17 1(b) of the rules that govern the HOA. That standing order states that “questions shall not include the names of persons, statements of fact unless they are necessary to render the question intelligible”.

The rules are clear

Premier Fahie argued that he has always had an issue with disclosing names of persons or companies because these entities were not present in the HOA to defend themselves.

But Penn protested forcefully, stating that even though HOA members may have made a decision not to release the names of individuals in accordance with the rules that govern the HOA, the names of companies should at least have been made available in the Premier’s response.

Penn further said the standing orders were clear on the matter.

The Premier later conceded that he would stand by and accept any decision the House makes on the issue.


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