With a monumental task to complete in only six months, the commission of inquiry must devise a tightly focused strategy for shining its powerful spotlight into the dark corners of the territory that haven’t previously been exposed.
The job won’t be easy.
To understand the scope of the commission’s mandate, consider the Office of the Auditor General, which often spends months on investigations that typically probe only one particular issue.
The commission’s remit is much wider: It is charged with developing its own strategy and then carrying out a very broad investigation to determine whether extensive corruption exists in the territory.
The commissioner, then, will need to stand on the shoulders of previous work by the media, the auditor general, the complaints commissioner and other watchdogs.
For decades, such entities have been exposing many of the concerns cited by Governor Gus Jaspert when he announced the inquiry last week, including lack of transparency, mismanagement of public projects, misuse of taxpayer money, political interference, and others.
They also have recommended reforms designed to tackle such issues, most of which haven’t been carried out.
The commissioner need not spend his time re-discovering the well-known governance failings the territory and the United Kingdom already know how to solve.
Instead, he should narrow his inquiry using targeted strategies that allow him to make optimal use of his authority, which includes the power to subpoena. To that end, we suggest the following approaches.
• After carefully reviewing reports by various watchdogs from recent decades, he should probe why the VI has failed to implement the basic reforms that they have recommended again and again.
• He also should speak with the auditor general, the complaints commissioner, the registrar of interests and others and ask how, specifically, he might use his powers to surmount any walls they have hit in recent investigations.
• Along the way, he should catalogue the challenges that hinder such agencies and recommend reforms to strengthen them.
• Additionally, he should tackle recent issues that have not yet been fully investigated, including seeking a full accounting of the nearly $60 million the government took from the Social Security Board for a Covid-19 economic stimulus package.
• While he’s at it, he should seek a full accounting of the recovery funding received after Hurricane Irma.
• He should also focus on investigating the record cocaine bust in Balsam Ghut. This effort should include interviewing senior and midlevel personnel responsible for border security in the customs, immigration, ports and police departments to determine how more than two tonnes of cocaine could possibly have been allowed into the territory.
• If he finds that prosecutions are needed, he should recommend them — and he should also try to ascertain why they didn’t happen sooner.
• Finally, besides focusing on the VI, he should probe the UK’s role in enabling the longstanding governance failings that UK officials often have effectively ignored.
Only by narrowing the scope of the inquiry and staying laser focused on specific goals will the commission be able to make optimal use of its limited time and resources.
Valuable results, we trust, would follow.