Furthermore, the audit, which was not designed to be made public, also found that the process was rife with abuse from 2011 Cabinet, which at the time comprised ministers in the previous Ralph T O’Neal-led administration.
Details of the audit were brought to light during the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (COI) by the Internal Auditor, Dorea Corea.
Belonger status can be acquired in several ways, but is generally granted as an honour, by naturalisation, or can be acquired after a qualifying period of marriage to a BVIslander.
In the BVI, the Department of Immigration’s Board facilitates the process of Belongership under the rights of marriage and residency.
While the report commended the board for executing its function well, it concluded that “the process had been significantly compromised by Cabinet’s gross abuse of its authority.”
According to the report, the process used by Cabinet members lacked both transparency and objectivity.
“Cabinet, which in our estimation is a policy-setting body, unnecessarily circumvented the law, policy, and process and failed to ensure that the process they used was transparent, objective and that their decisions were based on sound advice and accurate information,“ the report found.
And though not questioning Cabinet’s authority to approve Belonger status, the audit report registered the concern that when Belongership is granted and there is no sound basis or reason given for the decisions made, it erodes the integrity of the process.
“If Cabinet, as a matter of their right, disregards a process after the process is established in law and policy, then the fundamental principle of the transparency and equity within the process is severely undermined, if not destroyed,” the report stated.
The audit report also found that by taking it upon themselves to approve persons who were not vetted by the board or did not even submit an application, Cabinet removed from the board the ability to scrutinise the applicants, rendering the board’s role null and void.
Furthermore, the report stated that the practice whereby Cabinet approves status for individuals who were not vetted by the established process creates an environment in which favouritism, cronyism, and corruption can flourish.
The audit also recommended that whenever a decision is made by Cabinet or the board to deny approval of status for an applicant, clear reasons as to why the decision was taken should be documented, especially for cases where the board has made a recommendation and it was denied by Cabinet.
The report suggested this will help to ensure the transparency, equitability, and justification behind the decision taken.
However, was found in a follow-up report two years later that this recommendation, among several others, was never implemented.