Premier Andrew Fahie has said that recent breaches of the Register of Interests Act by both past and present legislators should not be used to label Members of the House of Assembly as being incompetent to their responsibilities.
The premier made the statement during a hearing of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Friday June 18, where he admitted to a number of breaches to the aforementioned Act.
However, he said the Act was just one that may not have been prioritized but assured his government was working on putting the necessary measures to strengthen the deficiency.
“It cannot be used as the measuring stick for the competence and the seriousness our legislators whether past or present, or on the opposition or government, has for this and for the House of Assembly. So my answer is germane don’t matter how many times I’m asked,” the premier stated.
He added, “The House has already dedicated itself to improving this system and the government side is working feverishly to get to Cabinet the legislation that’s going to hold us more accountable in a manner that we cannot even miss, without the Registrar giving us a prompt now and again. I do say it’s not correct but it does not by any means paint a picture of how responsible we are as elected officials overall. This is one in many.”
Several variables that cannot be divorced from equation
Premier Fahie also pointed to a number of variables that would have contributed to some of the House of Assembly Members not having sufficient time to prioritise the Act.
These included the tragic 2017 hurricanes which devastated the BVI, costing millions of dollars in damages to the territory and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in numerous lockdowns and setbacks.
The premier said these recent tragic incidents should not be divorced from the equation when assessing why some of the members may not have been able to submit their declarations on time in some of the years.
He said, “In these last few years we cannot divorce ourselves from the challenges that our representatives were facing from Irma and Maria which we haven’t rebound from yet. And we cannot divorce from the last 16-17 months of COVID. Now one may say well what does that have to do with it? It has a lot to do with it.”
“We spent over 90 meetings in Cabinet and the next set in the House and there were a lot of things competing for the importance of time and in competing with importance for deadlines. And I do not give any excuse for this but it just did not end up on the top of the pile at that time,” Fahie explained.
The leader of government business said that his government understands the serious nature of the Act and is putting measures in place to strengthen the necessary procedures in the future.