Thirteen of the 50 reform measures government promised following the Commission of Inquiry were complete by the end of October, with 35 more in progress and two scheduled to start next year, according to a summary of the COI Implementation Unit’s October report.
Most of the measures were derived from the advice of the COI, which made 49 recommendations in its report released to the public on April 29.
In June, the newly formed National Unity Government agreed to carry out all the recommendations except the first, which called for the partial suspension of the Constitution and the implementation of direct rule by the United Kingdom for at least two years.
The UK, for its part, agreed not to implement direct rule if the NUG carries out the promised reforms over the course of a two-year schedule of deadlines.
That schedule was codified in the Framework for Implementation of the Recommendations of the COI Report and Other Reforms, which also includes two additional reforms that Ms. Ward said were added by the NUG.
The progress updates came from summaries of September and October reports by the COI Implementation Unit, a new government body that assists in coordinating the overall delivery of COI recommendations.
Though the September and October summaries were published together on Nov. 25, the unit did not release its full reports.
Besides noting the status of the reforms, the summaries also listed the two recommendations that had not been started: establishing an overriding statute setting out frameworks for all statutory boards; and auditing all applications for grants of residency and belonger status awarded by the previous government under the “fast-track” scheme.
Between the September and October reports, only one new recommendation was put into motion: reviewing the processes for the disposal of Crown land.
The unit’s monthly reports reach the desk of the governor and premier on the 15th of every month, according to government.
The COI Implementation Unit is also charged with providing support to ministries in developing work plans for the delivery of the COI recommendations, assisting in drafting policy directions, and developing new programmes and systems.
The unit reports to Premier’s Office Permanent Secretary Carolyn Stoutt-Igwe, who chairs the COI Implementation Steering Committee.
As of Oct. 22, the following tasks had been carried out in keeping with the government’s Framework for Implementation of the Recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry Report and Other Reforms, according to COI Implementation Unit Director Hadassah Ward. On Nov. 25, the unit released summaries of its reports for September and October, but it has not released the full reports.
1. The terms of reference of the Constitutional Review Commission were amended to include considering amending the Constitution to make clear whether the term “Government of the Virgin Islands” encompasses statutory bodies.
2. Assistance grant funds were reallocated from elected representatives and government ministries to the Social Development Department for distribution.
3. The governor ordered a criminal investigation of the potential obstruction of the internal auditor by the Premier’s Office, related to Covid-19 Assistance Programmes.
4. The governor ordered a criminal investigation of the potential obstruction of the auditor general by the Premier’s Office, related to Covid-19 Assistance Programmes.
5. The House of Assembly amended the Audit Act to make a failure to cooperate with or otherwise impede the auditor general a criminal offence.
6. The Public Service Code and Service Commission Regulations were amended to make failure to cooperate with the auditor general or internal auditor an act of gross misconduct.
7. A process has been launched through which all government contracts other than major contracts contain a provision that there are no associated contracts which together would trigger the open tender process for major contracts.
8. The governor referred the Sea Cows Bay Harbour Development project and the Virgin Islands Neighbourhood Partnership Project to the police for criminal investigations.
9. The criminal investigations into the Elmore Stoutt High School perimetre wall project and the BVI Airways project have continued.
10. The terms of reference of the Constitutional Review Commission were amended to consider whether a Statutory Boards Commission should be responsible for selecting and revoking statutory board membership and monitoring internal policies and procedures.
11. The governor referred the disposal of a piece of land — parcel 310 of Block 2938B — for criminal investigation.