Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Hon. Vincent Wheatley has admitted that public trust has dwindled in the British Virgin Islands over the last few years in politicians.
Adding his voice to the debate on the recently passed Integrity in Public Life Act, 2021, the first term legislator said on December 21 in the House of Assembly that “Mr. Speaker I think we could all agree that over the past few years we as leaders have suffered from a lack of trust by the public.”
He added, “So Mr. Speaker we must restore trust not only in the elected officials but also in the public service. Mr. Speaker this institution I am speaking about here are institutions that is built on transparency, they are built on accountability and they are built on good governance.”
He said if the people are going to build “that great little nation my past colleague always spoke about, these three things are integral to that: Institutions that support transparency, accountability and good governance.”
The Act, according to Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie
was a fitting Christmas present to the people of the British Virgin Islands.
He said since taking office and even before, his administration promised the people to ensure that integrity laws are brought forward to further strengthen the territory’s capacity to govern and to police itself.
In explaining the objects and reasons, the Premier said he wanted to make it clear that no one forced his administration to bring forward the legislation and the other aforementioned good governance Bills to follow.
“No one has insisted, no one has done anything at all to say we had to do it or else, there has been no ultimatum, there has been nothing, other than the Government of the Virgin Islands
keeping its solemn promise to the people of the Virgin Islands
to move forward with further strengthening good governance by introducing such legislation.”
He said the Act primarily affects persons in public life but it can also affect ordinary persons as well.
“For instance, it will tell you what are your rights and expectations are under the Act, so you can know if a person in public life is infringing on your rights and expectations and then you may have grounds to lodge a complaint.”
There will also be an Integrity Commission established under the Act and among its functions is to receive and investigate complaints regarding any breaches or non-compliance with the provision of the Act.
The Act also has mechanisms to guard against abuse.
said, “Any person who knowingly and mischievously makes or causes to be a false report to the Commission or misleads the Commission by giving false information, or by making false statements or accusations, commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.”