British Virgin Islands

Friday, Feb 26, 2021

Public officers ‘have every right’ to approach Commission directly- CoI Secretary

Public officers ‘have every right’ to approach Commission directly- CoI Secretary

The Commission of Inquiry called by controversial former Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert to look into whether corruption, abuse of office or other serious dishonesty may have taken place amongst public, elected and statutory officials in recent years in the [British] Virgin Islands is making an appeal to anyone who would like to submit information relating to the Inquiry to do so as soon as possible via the various channels in place.

Further, Secretary to the Commission Mr Steven Chandler has said the Commissioner, Gary R. Hickinbottom, has been informed and welcomes that it is a policy of the Government of the Virgin Islands that all ministries, departments, statutory bodies and Government-owned entities provide appropriate and timely cooperation with the Inquiry.

Mr Chandler, in a press statement today, February 15, 2021, said the Commissioner also understands that the Attorney General, Dawn J. Smith, assisted by Withers Solicitors, will coordinate the implementation of that policy.

The Commission encourages anyone who would like to submit information relating to the Inquiry to do so as soon as possible via the secure website portal (www.bvi.public-inquiry.uk).


Public officers can still approach Commission directly


According to the press statement, the Commissioner wants to reassure the population of the VI, and its public officers in particular, that whatever mechanisms government adopts to assist the Commission there is nothing to prevent those in public office who have concerns from coming forward directly to the Commission.

“They have every right to do so, and if they do their information and input into the Inquiry will be kept strictly confidential.”

Meanwhile, the Commissioner, according to the statement, is extremely grateful for the information that has been shared to date, and for the “constructive engagement” he received during his visit to the Islands in January/February; and for the information “which continues to flow in.”

Further info needed


The next stage of the Inquiry, expected to last several months, will involve seeking further information and documentation predominantly from public officials, including elected and statutory officials.

The Commission encourages anyone who would like to submit information relating to the Inquiry to do so as soon as possible via the secure website portal (www.bvi.public-inquiry.uk). As well as the website portal, the Commission has provided a number of different and secure ways for individuals to share information with the Inquiry Team, including a dedicated email address, a WhatsApp phone number for messages or audio/video calls, and a UK postal address – all detailed on the website.

“All information will be received and held in strict confidence,” the Commission assured.

The Commission of Inquiry (“the Commission”) was announced on January 18, 2021 by Mr Jaspert, mere days after he exited the Virgin Islands.

The method which controversial former governor Mr Augustus J. U. Jaspert used to announce the Commission of Inquiry, which included keeping the local government in the dark about his intentions while colluding with the UK press, has raised question about the real motive behind his decision.


Questionable motive


The method which Mr Jaspert used, which included keeping the local government in the dark about his intentions while colluding with the UK press, has raised question about the real motive for the CoI.

It is also a known fact that Mr Jaspert shared a strained relationship with the new Government led by Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1), who has pushed for Virgin Islanders to take up top posts in the territory while championing the call for more autonomy for the territory. This has included limiting the powers of the Governor.

The Commissioner was sworn in on January 22, 2021, and began his work from that date.

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