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CoI: Registrar of Interests ‘begged’ for compliance from Dr Smith's NDP

CoI: Registrar of Interests ‘begged’ for compliance from Dr Smith's NDP

During the morning session of the Virgin Islands Commission of Inquiry (CoI) hearing Day 13, on June 17, 2021, the Commission heard that regarding compliance to the Register of Interests Act, 2006, under the previous Dr D. Orlando Smith-led National Democratic Party (NDP) administration (2011-2019), the then Registrar Mrs Victoreen Romney-Varlack had to beg for compliance over several years, to no avail.

Present at the hearing as a witness was ex-Premier Dr Smith, who was told by the Counsel to the Commission, Bilal Rawat, of several correspondences on the matter, for a solution to be made as a matter of priority.

‘Frustration’ to get matter addressed - Romney-Varlack


According to Rawat, in a February 19, 2014, memorandum to Governor William Boyd McCleary and copied to then Premier Smith, Romney-Varlack cited frustration with having to deal with the HoA under the control of the Dr Smith regime regarding compliance to the Act.

She said that in a previous meeting with the Governor, “One of the matters we discussed centered on the delinquency of some members of the House of Assembly in filing or not filing their declarations of interests. I am somewhat embarrassed to inform that there remain some members who have never filed a declaration since taking office on 8th December 2011.“

The then Registrar noted, “I have issued numerous requests and reminders, I have exercised courage and brought this matter to the fore during Standing Finance Committee meetings, practically begging members to desist from contravening the statute and to do what is required under Section 3 of the Register of Interests Act.”

Governor asked to intervene @ Cabinet


Romney-Varlack, calling the situation one of ‘inaction and frustration’ regarding getting the matter to take precedence, had then asked the then Governor McCleary to use his powers to influence the Cabinet.

She asked him to influence other Cabinet members who are also members of the HoA, to respect the Act and thereby respect the VI Constitution Order 2007.

Romney-Varlack said one of the challenges, which caused the act to not have ‘teeth’, was the failure of Dr Smith to establish a Register of Interests Standing Select Committee.

Register needed a committee to fully function


The CoI Counsel then revealed that in a memorandum from the then Governor McCleary to the Ex-Premier Smith, dated July 9, 2014, the Governor reminded the Premier about several conversations regarding the topic and the importance of the subject legislation and for the Register of Interests Standing Select Committee to be established in the House.

‘Ms Romney-Varlack noted that in the absence of such a committee, the act is not fully operational, the Register of Interests remains a vacant book,” McCleary said.

It was noted by Romney-Varlack that both the Register of Interests Act, 2006, and the VI Constitution were being violated as a result of none establishment of the Committee.

The Register of Interests under the Act requires, among others, for Members of the HoA, the Speaker and the Attorney General to make declarations of their interests. The law requires that this should take place upon the Member of the HoA taking office and secondly, on the anniversary of the sequential date in office, according to Section 3.

Smith Gov't failed to establish committee after 6 years


Should there be no declaration by a HoA Member by the sequential due date, and after a further three-month delay period, the Registrar as part of a penalty would have cause to make a report to the Register of Interests Standing Select Committee, according to Section 7 of the Act.

The Register of Interests Act came into force in 2008 with the requirement for the establishment of a committee; however, under the Dr Smith Government, no committee was ever established after 6 years in power, according to information provided to the Commission.

Present at the hearing as a witness was ex-Premier Dr D. Orlando Smith who was told By CoI Bilal Rawat of several correspondences on the matter, for a solution to be made as a matter of Priority.

According to Rawat, in a February 19, 2014, memorandum to Governor William Boyd McCleary and copied to then Premier Smith, Romney-Varlack cited frustration with having to deal with the HoA under the control of the Dr. Smith regime regarding compliance to the Act.


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