British Virgin Islands Inquiry: Report finds gross failures of governance, UK opts not to impose direct rule

Published by Rhys Taylor-Brown on June 10th 2022, 12:01am

Following the British Virgin Islands Inquiry, the concluding report has recommended that the territory’s constitution be suspended, and government dissolved amid gross failures of leadership.

The inquiry was launched in 2021 to investigate allocations of corruption within the local government and misuse of public funds.

Following the inquiry, commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom summarised the state of governance in the territory as “appallingly bad”.

He highlighted that there were no procedures for regulating how millions of dollars of public money were being spent each year and pointed out “serious dishonesty” on the part of government bodies over public property sales.

Sir Gary also found that there were significant levels of abuse of appointments taking place within the government.

He suggested in his concluding report that the British Virgin Islands constitution be suspended for two years, the elected government in the region be dissolved and that direct rule ought to be imposed.

The report also called for regular reviews into how the government sells off public land, welfare payments and local law enforcement.

While supporting the fact that the British Virgin Islands should implement Sir Gary’s 48 recommendations for reform outlined in the report, the UK government has opted not to invoke the final recommendation and impose direct rule on the British Virgin Islands at this time.

Foreign secretary Liz Truss will instead give a new local administration a two-year grace period to make changes to the way the islands are governed, adding that new leadership deserves a chance to “demonstrate their commitment to reform”.

The foreign secretary also highlighted that some changes had already been made since the publication of Sir Gary’s report back in April, including the fact that the new government has begun criminal investigations into those accused of wrongdoing.

Truss also raised the point that the former British Virgin Islands premier, Andrew Fahie, had been removed from post after much of the corruption was allowed to happen under his leadership.

Fahie was arrested in April on unrelated charges of alleged drug smuggling and money laundering in the US. He has pleaded not guilty.

Despite all of this, if reform targets are not met within the next two years, direct rule could yet be imposed.

Truss warned: “If it becomes clear that this approach is not delivering the reform the people of the British Virgin Islands want and deserve, we will take action. This may require the swift implementation of the final report recommendation.”

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons

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Rhys Taylor-Brown
Junior Editor
June 10th 2022, 12:01am

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