The Government of the Virgin Islands is claiming that they have provided the United Kingdom’s Commission of Inquiry (COI) with the largest official collection of data ever assembled in the history of the Virgin Islands.

This is according to a media release from the Office of the Premier which said the assertion came from new statistics which were recently unveiled.

Commenting on the latest statistics, Attorney General Dawn Smith said it has rightly been the aim of the government from the beginning of the Commission of Inquiry, to thoroughly co-operate with the Commission

She said doing so has taken enormous amounts of time and effort on behalf of ministers and both senior and junior Public Officers, who had many other duties at a time of global crisis.

“It has not always seemed that the COI understood the extraordinary pressures which its demands have placed upon the limited numbers of officers in a Public Service which is far smaller than that of the UK, which has not been modernised for decades, and whose records have not been maintained to a consistent standard over the years or were very substantially affected by Hurricane Irma,” AG Smith stated.  

She added, “The COI has heard evidence, and made observations, about the undoubted problems which face the administrative machinery of the Virgin Islands, but perhaps has not appreciated that its own working methods have directly and significantly increased those problems throughout a year when there have been other (and indeed multiple) unusual or emergency circumstances as well.”  

Public Service withstood the added workload

Attorney General Smith also highlighted the resilience of the BVI’s Public Service, which she said withstood the many demands of the COI while coexisting with the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said, “Indeed, the impact of the Commission of Inquiry itself upon efficient, timely and effective administration in these islands has been significant in the context of coping with COVID-19 and in the continuing aftermath and consequences of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Its cascading and constant demands placed a strain upon our already severely overstretched Public Service.”  

She further added, “It is important to stress that our Public Service has not broken under this strain, and our Public Officers have done a great job in very difficult circumstances. As the COI evidence gathering phase nears its end, I wish to record my thanks to Public Officers for their extraordinary and genuinely immense efforts.”

Detailed breakdown

The Premier’s Office in the media release also provided a summarized version of some of the documents submitted at the request of the COI.

They said that since it was announced in January 2021, the COI has received from the government, the Inquiry Response Unit (IRU) or the Government’s legal advisers:

  • Over 10,000 documents, totalling approximately 150,000 pages;
  • Responses to 159 COI letters of request for information, documents or affidavits.  Of this total, the Government has provided the COI with 67 notarised affidavits;
  • Responses to 19 Orders of the Commissioner:
  • Written responses to 24 warning letters;
  • Responses to 21 witness summons;
  • Not less than 29 submissions on legal points and related matters;
  • 4 position statements on behalf of ministers and the elected Government;
  • Responses to not less than 52 other letters and Emails from the COI which have required a substantive response. 

The Inquiry Response Unit was established on 5 February 2021 to assist the Government of the Virgin Islands with responding to Commission of Inquiry requests.