More than 11,000 pages of supporting documents that Governor John Rankin received with the Commission of Inquiry report on April 4 were posted last week on government’s website — more than four months after the release of the report itself.
The documents are varied, and some — such as legislation, Cabinet decisions, and auditor general reports on projects like BVI Airways and the cruise pier — were public prior to the inquiry. Others had been published on the COI website during the course of the probe, including position statements from elected representatives and other officials.
However, more than 100 other documents had not been publicly released until last week.
They include Cabinet minutes, correspondence about public contracts, BVI Ports Authority board meeting minutes, letters between Virgin Islands and United Kingdom leaders, a memorandum on the Register of Interests, and others (see end of article).
COI Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom had urged the governor to release the supporting documents along with the 937-page COI report.
“Whilst publication of the report and its supporting documents is of course a matter for you, I sincerely hope that, after you have reviewed them but otherwise as soon as you are properly able, you will publish the report and supporting documents in a form which gives the BVI public ready access,” the commissioner wrote the governor when he handed over the documents on April 4, adding, “As you are aware, throughout, I have made the inquiry as open and transparent as possible, with hearings not only being held in public but also livestreamed with transcripts and documents being made available to the public whenever I have been able to do so.”
Sir Gary also noted that the supporting documents provide context for the report.
“Most of the documents, or parts of documents, to which I refer in the report are here,” he wrote. “Some simply provide background, but most are documents upon which I have relied to inform my findings, conclusions and recommendations, and are therefore important in aiding the reader’s understanding of the issues considered in the report.”
Only the report
Mr. Rankin received the report and the supporting documents together on April 4, and he released the main report on April 29 — the day after then- Premier Andrew Fahie was arrested in Miami on drug and money-laundering conspiracy charges.
In response to June questions from the Beacon about the missing documents, Governor’s Office spokesman Arron Rahaman cited several reasons for the decision to delay publication.
“We are hoping to publish the COI supporting documentary evidence once we have clarified some details relating to the content of some of the documents,” Mr. Rahaman wrote at the time. “We are also looking for a suitable way to store the documents in an easily accessible way, which is not easy due to the size of the supporting documentary evidence, which is nearly 10,000 pages across several PDF files.”
In response to a follow-up query, Mr. Rahaman said on Aug. 24 that the “right files” were with the VI government to upload.
“I understand that due to leave and a few minor technical issues there’s been a delay in uploading, but I was told yesterday that someone is on the case,” he wrote. “I’ll let you know as soon as these are live.”
Six days later, Mr. Rahaman wrote to say the documents were uploaded.
The documents are split into two bundles on the government’s website.
The first set is divided into sections corresponding to the 13 chapters of the COI report. The second set — titled “Legislation, International and Legal Authorities” — consists of nearly 3,000 pages in a single PDF.
In the first bundle, the largest PDF files — which correspond to the chapters “Contracts” and “Assistance Grants” in the COI report — are 2,210 pages and 1,032 pages, respectively.
The shortest correspond to the chapters titled “Commission of Inquiry Methodology and Process” and “The Scope of The Commission of Inquiry,” with 24 and 43 pages, respectively.
The second bundle includes past and present VI legislation,
international legislation, and court filings, among other documents.
The local court documents include filings by former Speaker of the House Julian Willock against COI lawyers, as well as the court ruling in a case Claude Skelton-Cline filed against government in 2019.