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Saturday, May 28, 2022

AG Sonia Webster points out that disregarding procurement rules is a troubling culture within BVI Gov’t. Just the same as in UK

AG Sonia Webster points out that disregarding procurement rules is a troubling culture within BVI Gov’t. Just the same as in UK

The audit report from AG Webster is straightforward and professional, but it is not clear why she is cooperating with the COI, against BVI. Instead, she should be sharing her important, valid and valuable findings with the people of BVI, and with them only. Her report is none of the COI's business. The COI belongs not to BVI, but to the UK with its much more corrupt government. BVI people are not monkeys who need an imported white man to listen to their problems and weave them into a whip to keep the BVI baboons in line. The government audit should be a constructive tool, not a destructive tool: the important job the Auditor General does should be used for BVI people, and not against them. What happens in BVI stays in BVI. There is nothing to share with the COI, which represents the problem not the solution. In fact, the COI operation is against the very basic human rights of democracy.

The people of the Virgin Islands must unite and present one face outwardly, despite all that divides them from within.

The great people of the Islands, especially professional civil servants such as AG Webster, should work together to resolve the problems that definitely exist on the island, just as they exist - only much worse - in every other modern country. The people who call BVI their home must come together dedicate their best efforts to repair, rehabilitate and improve the government. This is not a job to be done by outsiders such as Mr. Hickinbottom, for whom BVI is just monkey territory, that needs an occasional lash of the whip to keep it in line, even at the cost of leaving the Islands' reputation scarred forever.

The Virgin Islanders must stop voluntarily putting their necks under the knees of those who come to deprive them of the right to breathe independently.

The islanders must work together, by their own lead and under their own steam, to address every issue that needs improvement. They must not - God forbid - go back two hundred years, and let themselves be subjugated by a white representative of a supremacist foreign government, which itself is drowning in corruption and endless scandals.

Mr. Gary Hickinbottom, the jack-of-all-trades who heads the illegal and unconstitutional COI has landed, uninvited, as if he were the master of all BVI. Mr. Hickinbottom behaves as if his role is to command the islands as if he were the monkey trainer and the islanders nothing but submissive baboons who are supposed to jump in line whenever he lashes the whip. He has no authority, neither moral nor constitutional, to preach morality to others.

Mr. Hickinbottom is a corrupt representative of a government which, on a daily basis, is drowning in corruption, racism and a culture of breaking the law and violating the human rights of its own tax payers as well as outsiders.

In fact, Mr. Hickinbottom and his suave sidekick Bilal Rawat can only learn from the high morals and values of the Islanders and their government, not teach them anything. This is not to claim the BVI government is perfect and problem-free - evidently quite the opposite - but that it is far less corrupt than the government that is paying its mercenary Mr. Hickinbottom. As a representative of a corrupt, racist and war-mongering government, Mr. Hickinbottom should hide in shame in his far-away troubled island, not try to pretend that the crimes-against-humanity culture he represents gives him any moral authority to be what he is not now and never can be: a preacher for good. He had better wash his hands before attempting to point dirty fingers at others.

The UK is broken and divided. Broken NHS, broken education system, broken Royal Family, broken legal system, broken media, broken political system, broken trust of the people in their government and institutions, broken society. 

It would be better for Mr. Hickinbottom to go back to help his country fix its internal problems before putting his nose into other people’s affairs. Actually, despite being aware of its obvious failings, we all love the UK and want it to be strong and united. The UK can recover only by fixing all that is wrong in the UK, not by deflecting attention from its own real problems by blaming others for not being absolutely perfect. The UK government's ploy of distraction by playing the overseas blame game is over. It’s time for them to fix the broken UK from the inside.

COI Counsel Bilal Rawat should do just the same as Mr. Hickinbottom. (Bilal was the name of one of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, who became the first muezzin - "caller to prayer" - in Islam.) He should go back and help to repair what is broken in the country that adopted him.

And neither of this pair should think they have any moral right or legal standing to interfere in the internal affairs of the BVI. Nor should the UK, especially when it has its own greater problems to solve at home.

The whole world needs a strong, healthy and wealthy UK. So first fix the broken UK instead of trying to fix the much better working BVI.

The English elites have more money, because historically they took it from others. This does not give them the rights or privilege to continue to patronise their victims.  

A pervasive culture of disregarding rules and procedures in government has left Auditor General (AG) Sonia Webster with some amount of concern.

During a live hearing of the Commission of Inquiry (COI), AG Webster said she found that it was becoming acceptable within the government to disregard procurement requirements.

“I think there needs to be an understanding that those rules are put in place to protect the government,” Webster said. “They’re put in place to protect transparency.”

Webster said the absence of these measures creates what she describes as ‘a slippery slope’. The AG also said she is concerned that if the practice is not arrested, it will be a very costly exercise for the BVI in the long run.

The issue of disregard for procurement procedures is one with which AG Webster said she has become intimately familiar in her 30-year tenure inside the office of the AG.

Webster said she has seen a willingness in public officers to basically bypass the rules and make excuses for having bypassed them.

Contract splitting lacks transparency

According to the AG, contract splitting has been and continues to be one of the biggest issues that circumvent the rules of procurement. She also described it as the most basic form of circumvention of tendering requirements and said the practice was not being regulated.

“The regulations in place for public procurement are insufficient to ensure transparency and value-for-money [when there is] contract splitting,” the AG noted.

She said the practice of contract splitting risks incidents of cronyism, favouritism, poor value for money, and the hiring of inexperienced contractors.

She recommended that the regulations for public tender be reviewed for improved transparency.

Even as the AG decried the practice, at least two former ministers in the previous National Democratic Party government who gave testimony during the COI, stated emphatically that Cabinet has the authority to override procurement regulations by splitting major contracts into smaller ones.

There are obvious and serious public risks in flawed practices such as these, and corresponding concerns over the lax culture which gave rise to them. In pointing them out, AG Webster has provided a valuable service for the BVI people by doing her duty professionally and diligently.

Now is the time to address the problems she has highlighted. The time for the government, civil servants and people of the BVI to address them. Not the time for outsiders to poke their noses in, and start pointing their dirty fingers.


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