As conversation about the importance of good governance buzzes in the community, officials recently relaunched a transparency measure they had discontinued shortly after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Feb. 11, Cabinet resumed publishing weekly summaries of its decisions after noting in a Feb. 9 press release that it “acknowledges the interruption” of the practice last year but remains “committed to good governance principles of transparency and accountability.”

A report summarising the decisions from Jan. 7, 13 and 27 was Gazetted Feb. 11.

Cabinet noted that the number of meetings increased “dramatically” from 42 in 2019 to 94 meetings last year, largely due to the need for passing Covid-19- related orders.

“The public is asked to note that the majority of Cabinet decisions taken at its 2020 meetings were made public as part of government’s Covid-19 updates,” the release states.

That statement also promised that the “backlog of decisions that are yet to be confirmed will be ratified by the Cabinet, and the Cabinet Office will make a determined effort to release those decisions within the shortest time possible.”

History

Cabinet began publishing the summaries in September 2018.

In a joint statement at the time, then-Governor Gus Jaspert and then-Premier Dr. Orlando Smith called the publication of the first Cabinet decisions “another milestone in this territory’s journey as a politically mature jurisdiction that is willing to embrace the principles of openness, transparency and accountability, which are also central to an effective and proactive communication process.”

Then-Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie applauded the move at the time, but said he believed government also needed to take other related to take toward accountability, including publicising the resolutions passed by each statutory board, with a caveat for security concerns.

Last week’s press release reiterated that Cabinet decisions would be published after the confirmation of minutes, and would only summarise the decisions.

“Cabinet decisions of a sensitive nature, matters of national security, those in breach of regional or international conventions, and those relating to personal privacy will not be disclosed,” it stated.

Moving forward, Cabinet plans to publish its decisions in the Gazette every Thursday.

“The Cabinet apologies for any inconvenience caused during the interruption of the publicising of Cabinet decisions,” according to the release.

 

CABINET BRIEFS

Acting Governor David Archer, Jr. chaired the Cabinet meeting held on Jan. 7 in the absence of then-Governor Gus Jaspert, who was overseas on official leave. The meeting was held at the Financial Services Commission’s Conference Room at the Jones Building in Pasea Estate. All members were present. During the meeting, the Cabinet took the following actions:

1. Approved the appointment of Captain Baboucar Sallah as a member of the Maritime Advisory Board in accordance with Section 454 and Schedule Four of the Merchant Shipping Act, 2004.

2. Approved Nathaniel Isaac as a member of the BVI Airports Authority Board effective July 1, 2020 for a period of two years.

3. Approved that the Junior Minister for Tourism take leadership of the National Tourism Plan by year-end; agreed to the establishment of a Special Tourism Committee, to be co-chaired by the premier and junior minister, to support completion of the plan; and noted that the BVI Tourist Board will hire a “traveler experience marketing consultant.”

4. Accepted the evaluation report submitted by the Central Tenders Board Sub-Committee, which was approved by the Central Tenders Board on Oct. 27, and accepted the CTB’s recommendation to award Metro Construction Ltd. the contract for the renovation of ground floor of the Road Town Fire Station in the amount of $332,206.73.

5. Decided:

a. that the tender process to procure goods and services needed for the “permanent” electrical connection of Seven Seas Water Plant at Paraquita Bay to the national power grid, be waived as the goods and services are specialised and urgently required to ensure the terms of the Water Purchase Agreement No. 68 of 2010 can continue to be reasonably met;

b. that a contract be awarded to BVI Electricity Corporation for a sum not to exceed $111,609.35, to cover the cost of procuring and installing the specialised goods and services; and

c. that the Ministry of Transportation, Works and Utilities instruct the Attorney General’s Chambers to draft the relevant agreement.

6. Granted permission to the government to purchase land in the Long Look Registration Section, measuring 2,040 square feet at a consideration sum of $14,775 for use as a public road.

7. Decided that the Ministry of Finance instruct the Attorney General’s Chambers to vet the bill titled Environmental Protection and Tourism Improvement (Amendment) Act, 2020 to allow for the collection of two percent of the gross accumulated proceeds of the Environmental and Tourism Improvement Levy, prior to payment to any approved entity, to cover the administrative costs incurred by central government in its collection and disbursement of the levy; and that

a. the amount collected is to be paid into the Consolidated Fund;

b. once finalised, the bill be introduced for its first reading in the House of Assembly at the next convenient sitting; and

c. that the Ministry of Finance instruct the Attorney General’s Chambers to draft the order under section six of the Environmental Protection and Tourism Improvement Fund Act, 2017, to amend the schedule to redistribute the applicable percentages to the beneficial agencies under the levy.

8. Decided to conduct a service-wide compensation review to advise on relatively competitive compensation for the public service to address remuneration disparity to further support the retention, engagement and motivation of skilled and competent officers to effectively deliver public services.

9. Waived the tender process, based on an evaluation report from a restrictive submission of proposals performed by the Ministry of Finance, for procurement of furniture for the offices of the Treasury Department and Inland Revenue Department (inclusive of a heavy duty mobile high density filing system for Inland Revenue Department) at Skelton Baylot at Fish Bay; and decided that the contract be awarded to Island Services Ltd. for a sum not to exceed $238,042.19.

10. Considered the proposal and approved the establishment of the following two special committees to assist in the identification of new revenue streams for the territory and to identify recommendations for streamlining recurrent expenditure:

a. Special Revenue Advisory Committee, co-chaired by the finance minister and the acting financial secretary, with the mandate to identify existing and potential opportunities for creating new revenue streams from current and new industries; and

b. Special Public Expenditure Committee, co-chaired by the finance minister and the acting financial secretary, with the mandate to inspect, review and recommend measures that will allow for more efficiency in the management of recurrent expenditures.

11. Noted that OBM Limited has been contracted for consultancy services for engineering and architectural design, construction supervision and contract management for the rehabilitation of the Ralph T. O’Neal Administration Complex, working in collaboration with the Public Works Department, and decided that office spaces be assigned on the basis of an open floor plan; information and communications technology needs; SMART building design; security systems; workplace health and safety; optimised indoor air quality; and energy efficiency.

12. Approved applications for one non-belonger’s land holding licence, first leasehold charge, and to expand development on an existing lease of Crown land for commercial use.

Jan. 13 meeting

Then-Governor Gus Jaspert chaired another Cabinet meeting on Jan. 13 at the Financial Services Commission’s Conference Room. All members were present, and the Cabinet took the following actions.

1. Reviewed the annual report of the Governor’s Office for the year ending Dec. 31, 2018 and decided that the report be laid on the table at the next convenient sitting of the HOA.

2. Reviewed the bid evaluation report by the Central Tenders Board and accepted the recommendation to award Ernst & Young Limited a non-exclusive contract for consultancy services for recovery of unclaimed property and assets for the VI.

3. Decided that, in accordance with the provisions of section five of the Financial Services Commission Act, 2001, William Gilmore be appointed to the FSC’s board of commissioners as deputy chair and member from Dec. 14, 2020 to Nov. 13, 2023 and decided that the Ministry of Finance instruct the Attorney General’s Chambers to prepare the instrument of appointment for signing and then Gazetting.

4. Approved the appointment of the following members to the Education Advisory Board with effect from Jan. 1, 2021 for a period of two years: Dr. Arlene Smith-Thompson, representing the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College; Dr. Quincy Lettsome, someone with expert educational opinion; Derecia Scatliffe-Thomas, Elmore Stoutt High School PTA president, representing Parent Teacher Associations; Willis Potter, representing technological, vocational or business education; Stacy Mather, representing organisations concerned with community development; Pastor Naaman Chalwell, representing the religious community; Rochelle Lawrence, representing the business community; Corine George-Massicot, representing the legal community; Kayron Todman and Hilroy George, representing principals; Gracia Stevens, representing the sister islands; and Teachers Union President Tammy Henry, representing a recognised organisation representing teachers.

5. Approved the naming of the Baughers Bay marina development as the “Omar Wallace Hodge Fishermen’s Wharf and Park;” decided that the park be placed under the Recreation Trust for its management and maintenance; and decided that a planning committee be established to plan the ceremony for the occasion consisting of the following members: chairwoman Lorna Stevens, assistant secretary (desk officer for Recreation Trust); Janelle Hodge, representing the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries; Kareem-Nelson Hull, representing the Sixth District representative; Nekita Turnbull, information officer; and Jeremy Hodge, family representative.

6. Noted the summary of the situation report number 33, as presented by the Health Emergency Operations Centre, and decided that:

i. effective immediately, anyone approved to travel to the VI originating or transiting through the Dominican Republic or the United Kingdom is required to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival provided they undergo a five-day rt-PCR testing regimen prior to arrival and on days 0 and 14; and

ii. in light of the prevalent cases of Covid-19 in the Dominican Republic and the new strain of Covid-19 prevalent in the United Kingdom, to implement a travel ban effective Jan. 11, 2021 of people travelling from the DR and UK to the VI, except for nationals, belongers, residents, work permit holders, people permitted to reside in the territory, diplomats and people employed by government and statutory agencies.

Jan. 27 meeting

Acting Governor David Archer, Jr. chaired a Cabinet meeting on Jan. 27, 2021 at the Financial Services Commission’s Conference Room. All members were present, and the Cabinet made the following decisions.

1. Considered and approved the bill, which is to effect necessary amendments to the Financial Investigation Agency Act, 2003 (Act No. 19 of 2003), to enable the FIA to better perform its anti-money laundering/combatting the financing of terrorism obligations attributable to it in preparation for the next Caribbean Financial Action Task Force mutual evaluation of the VI, currently scheduled for this year. The bill will be forwarded to the Attorney General’s Chambers for review.

2. Recommended that the Bitter End Yacht Club Limited be granted a new Hotel Aid Licence for a period of five years commencing Dec. 1, 2020 and ending Nov. 30, 2025 in accordance with the Hotel Aid (Amendment Act) 2005.

3. Decided that the bill titled, Supplementary Appropriation (2016) Act (2020) be introduced for its first reading in the House of Assembly at its next convenient sitting.

4. Approved the establishment of a Rescue Co-ordination Centre under the VI Shipping Registry (VISR) and decided:

a. to increase the VISR’s 2021 recurrent budget by $595,000 in the requisite subheads to cover the RCC’s costs;

b. to increase the Premier’s Office’s 2021 capital vote by $425,000 to cover the establishment and outfitting works for the RCC;

c. that the vessel Vigilant II be re-assigned to VISR to lead search and rescue and support the additional maritime functions: marine fire response; safety patrol and monitoring of VI waters; maintenance of navigational aids; marine ambulatory transport between the sister islands and Tortola, in conjunction with the BVI Health Services Authority;

d. that funding for the expenditure be approved in the amount of $1,020,000, via a schedule of additional provision to be approved by the HOA at its earliest convenient sitting; and

e. that the Premier’s Office instruct the Attorney General’s Chambers to review any existing agreements and arrangements relating to search and rescue in the VI that could impact this decision.

5. Noted the implementation of the BVI Electricity Corporation Amnesty Programme and its corresponding policy, and approved the immediate remittance of payment in the amount of $107,298.54 by way of the government’s Consolidated Fund.

6. Reviewed the bid evaluation report submitted by the technical sub-committee, which was approved by the Central Tenders Board; accepted the CTB’s recommendation to award Proficient Business Services Ltd., as the lowest evaluated bidder, the Caribbean Development Bank-funded contract for the supply and installation of ICT equipment for courts in the VI in the amount of $286,026.45.

7. Decided that the Social Security (Amendment) Act, 2014 be further amended to bring a number of areas in line with international standards and that amendments also address people unable to make contributions due to unemployment or other extenuating circumstances. The ministry will collaborate with the Attorney General’s Chambers on the amendments.

8. Received the Health Emergency Operations Centre’s Situation Report Number 34: Reopening Update and decided:

a. that in light of the new strains of Covid-19 prevalent in South Africa and Brazil, to implement a travel ban, effective Jan. 28, on people travelling from these countries to the VI, except for nationals, belongers, residents, work permit holders, people permitted to reside in the territory, diplomats and people employed by government and statutory agencies; and

b. that effective immediately, all people approved to travel to the VI originating or transiting through South Africa or Brazil, are required to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival, provided they undergo a five-day rt-PCR testing regimen prior to arrival and on days zero and 14.

9. Reviewed and approved the Covid-19 Vaccine Introduction Plan, which outlines the actions that need to be taken before and after the vaccine arrives in the territory, and the strategies involved in vaccinating the target population, as well as other important steps, including management and organisation, communication, information and evaluation; considered and approved that immunisation of the population of the VI be carried out on a voluntary basis; and considered and approved the terms of reference and membership for the BVI Covid-19 Vaccine Steering Committee; BVI Covid-19 Vaccine Administration and Technical Sub-Committee; BVI Covid-19 Community Mobilisation Sub-Committee; and BVI Covid-19 Communications Sub-Committee.

10. Approved “a number of ” non-belonger’s land holding licence applications.

This information was reported by the Cabinet Office.


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