We applaud the specific deadlines in the reform proposal agreed this month by the Virgin Islands and United Kingdom governments.
The targets are ambitious, but they represent exactly the sort of measurable commitments that the territory’s elected leaders have dodged for decades. Largely because of this specificity, the proposal is a groundbreaking roadmap for a new future.
However, we would also like to be assured of similarly measurable commitments to full transparency as the reforms are carried out in the coming months.
In this regard, one section is right on target: It commits the governor to publishing his quarterly reviews of the reform progress. This promise is most welcome, and it will help keep the public in the loop.
The rest of the proposal, however, largely lacks this measurable commitment to transparency. Indeed, it makes no promise to publish the many other reports, audits and related documents that will be generated as the government works to carry out the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations.
These documents, which are of clear public interest, include the following:
• reports from numerous audits and other probes that will investigate wide-ranging government projects and programmes, due over the next two years;
• reform implementation plans that government ministries must complete by June 30;
• the legislative timetable due June 30 for implementation of COI report recommendations;
• the work programme and implementation schedule that the premier is charged with developing by June 30;
• a report on residency and belongership due by Nov. 30;
• a report on the welfare benefits and grants system due by Nov 30;
• a report on statutory bodies due by Dec. 31;
• a report on Crown land disposals due by Dec. 31;
• a report due on March 31 from the committee charged with reviewing law enforcement and justice systems; and
• the revised public service transformation programme and reform schedule that the governor is charged with completing on an “ongoing” deadline, among many others.
The governor will doubtlessly provide updates on the above documents in his quarterly reviews. But members of the public should also be granted timely access to the documents themselves so that they can draw their own conclusions.
Though we are disappointed that the proposal doesn’t explicitly commit to publishing such information, leaders can still pledge to do so now.
Government is rightly promising to hold public meetings about the proposal in the coming days. Before those meetings start, members should create an addendum listing which documents will be published, and when.
The promised reforms are urgent and well-conceived, but success will require the support of the entire community. Full transparency is crucial to fostering the trust needed to get the job done right.