Following an outcry on the initiative from some members of the public led by elements sworn only to frustrate the efforts of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) Government, Hon Turnbull, who reportedly was the one to advance the matter of supplemental insurance and was given the responsibility to help move it forward, publicly stated in a letter that he had advised that the matter not go out to tender until a study is conducted.
Further, a statement from Opposition Leader, Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8) on June 6, 2021, said Members of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition have expressed their disappointment and concern regarding the request for proposals (RFP) for private health insurance coverage for current and former HoA members.
The statement also alleged that the plan advertised in the media comes despite there being no consensus by all members of the HoA to issue such notice.
The integrity of both Hon Turnbull and Hon Penn ’s is now being challenged by a Member of the Privileges Committee of the House of Assembly, Junior Minister for Tourism and At Large Member, Hon Sharie B. de Castro, who was part of a sub-committee tasked to review the proposal for supplementary health insurance.
In a statement today, June 8, 2021, Hon de Castro, instead of leaping off the ship behind Hon Turnbull and Hon Penn, admitted that she was part of the committee set up to explore the feasibility of the recommendation made and had agreed for the proposal to go to tender as is.
Hon de Castro also revealed that the recommendation for supplemental insurance was brought forward by the Member for the 2nd District “who was also appointed as the lead on this initiative due to his expertise in the field.”
She said, additionally, all preliminary meetings with local insurance providers were conducted by the Member for the 2nd District, who then reported to the Committee, following which presentations were made to the Committee by local insurance providers.
“Subsequently, the Ministry of Finance advised that a formal procurement process should be engaged. Consequently, all negotiations regarding the Request for Proposal (RFP) for supplemental health coverage was handled by the Member for the 2nd District, in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance.
Once negotiations regarding the RFP with representatives from the Ministry of Finance were concluded, the said representatives then met with the Members in an Informal Meeting of the HoA on April 27th, 2021 to report on the proposed agreement reached.
“To my recollection, it should also be noted that during the Informal Meeting, all elected members except one, who was absent, had the opportunity to participate in related discussions and we all unanimously agreed that the RFP should go forward as proposed.”
Hon de Castro said as a Member of the Privileges Committee, she understands the frustration of the public regarding the proposed private health insurance for HoA Members; however, it should be noted that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were a number of policy matters that were already in the works, and this was one of them.
“I do agree that given the current climate, this matter may have been better addressed with a sensitisation campaign to give the public greater awareness of the intentions behind the initiative. I will also go on record to say that I, along with all Members agreed with the proposal, even though it morphed significantly with contributions from the general body.”
Hon de Castro then proceeded to put Hon Turnbull on blast for his perceived distortion of the facts.
“What is extremely disappointing and what took me by surprise is the blatant disregard for the facts by the Member for the 2nd District when he, seemingly motivated by the public’s response, attempted to distort the facts in order to deceptively excuse himself from a collective decision of which he was the architect.”
According to Hon de Castro, in his letter, Hon Turnbull stated that he “made it clear” to the Speaker and the team at the Procurement Unit that he would have to write a report based on his findings as an “experienced professional in the insurance field.
Hon de Castro said; however, that in actuality, at no point did the Member express reservations regarding the publication of the tender document.
In fact, she said Hon Turnbull met with the Ministry of Finance to make additional recommendations to the tender document after the document was presented to Members and prior to it being made public.
“Most importantly, the Member was copied on and in some instances addressed directly in electronic correspondences at every stage during the process. As such, for the Member to assert that the document was finalised without his involvement and subsequently made public is grossly and maliciously mendacious!”
Hon de Castro also said the Leader of the Opposition, Hon Penn, was also being disingenuous when he said there was no consensus from all Members of the HoA on the initiative, as he too was copied on correspondence regarding the RFP and could have indicated his opposition at any point during the process.
Nevertheless, Hon de Castro was humble enough to state that she agrees the process should be halted so that due consideration could be given to the concerns of the people.
“I would also support a decision for the matter to be referred back to the HoA for a collective decision on the way forward,” Hon de Castro, a former educator and former Miss British Virgin Islands, said.
Junior Minister for Tourism and At Large Member Hon Sharie B. de Castro has exposed the cowardly and disingenuous behaviour of Leader of the Opposition Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8) and Second District Representative Hon Melvin M. Turnbull (R2) but has also recommended that the process of supplemental health insurance for past and current legislators should be halted so that due consideration could be given to the concerns of the people.
Leader of the Opposition, Hon Marlon A. Penn (R1) has been accused of being disingenuous when he said there was no consensus from all Members of the HoA on the private health insurance for legislators initiative, as he too was reportedly copied on correspondence regarding the Request For Proposal and could have indicated his opposition at any point during the process.