Senior white executives at the organisation, which is the British government’s cultural arm abroad, have been accused of discriminating against BAME Kenyan-born staff, particularly as they were selected and assessed for redundancy.
According to The Guardian on January 3, 2021, a letter that claims to represent seven current and former staff members sparked the inquiry in July 2021 when it was sent to the British Council as well as the Kenyan authorities.
It says: “The cases underline a repeated practice by white members of staff to constantly assign Kenyans as underperformers, inadequate, unskilled, unprofessional, and suspects as the organisation abuses its procedures and systems to validate its discriminative practice.”
Five of the seven accusers claim they were discriminated against during a redundancy process that they say favoured white colleagues. The allegations come amid cuts in central government funding for the British Council as well as a shortfall of income related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The British Council, known as the UK government’s main instrument of soft power, launched an inquiry into the claims in September and says it takes racism claims seriously. It claims it is still waiting for all of the complainants to come forward with evidence and has queried some of the claims in the initial letter.
However, one of the complainants who was made redundant said he would not cooperate with the inquiry because it was too narrow in scope to include earlier allegations.
The British Council was founded in 1934 allegedly to improve cultural relations and improve social mobility.
It was in October 2020 that local officers of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) had alleged they were being sidelined for jobs in favour of officers from the United Kingdom.
The RVIPF, under then-Commissioner and UK national Mr Michael B. Matthews, had advertised various vacancies that were open to both local and UK officers; however, the local officers believed that the qualifications set out, such as Professionalising the Investigation Process (PIP), are deliberate attempts to sideline local officers, knowing they would not be able to make those qualifications although, they are reportedly capable of carrying out the jobs being advertised based on experienced and even training.
They had also argued PIP is a standard not a qualification.
Further, it was alleged that the salaries being offered for the advertised posts were huge and would be a burden on the public’s purse and that it would serve the treasury better, if a fraction of that money was spent on facilitating training for local officers to take up the advertised posts.
The then Commissioner had said the positions were open to local officers, local persons as well as external applicants, “If you want your police force to function effectively, then certain skill sets are required and it’s a fact of life they are not all available locally. Certainly, the Ministry recognises this even if a handful of disgruntled officers do not!” Mr Matthews had responded when asked for a comment on the situation.