Opposition Leader Marlon Penn has lambasted the governing Virgin Islands Party (VIP) administration for a seeming change in the mandate of the House of Assembly (HOA), given its recent proclivity for litigation.
Speaking during the budget debate last evening, Penn said more than half a million dollars has been spent towards litigation by the HOA in the past three years, a figure that dwarfs even the Attorney General’s Chambers’ spending in that area.
And according to Penn, this amount only covers paid invoices and does not account for pending invoices that are yet to be dealt with by the House.
In the corresponding period, Penn said the Attorney General’s Chambers has only spent about a quarter of a million dollars on litigation from its budget.
Penn further disclosed that the litigation spending was from unbudgeted amounts.
The House of Assembly is led by Speaker Julian Willock, who has been embroiled in a number of unsuccessful and costly legal ventures since his appointment to the post.
Willock filed an injunction against the newly re-elected Fourth District Representative Mark Vanterpool in 2019 to prevent him from taking his seat as a member in the HOA.
An appeal in that matter was later abandoned after it was initially lost at the High Court level, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
More recently, Willock filed an injunction against three Commission of Inquiry
) lawyers to prevent them from being called to the bar in the BVI since he felt the attorneys were practising illegally at the time.
This injunction too was abandoned after failing to garner the approval and support of the Attorney General before the High Court.
Willock was later declared by the court as being liable for legal fees incurred by all parties involved in the matter and was ordered to pay some $98,000 in court costs.
Premier Andrew Fahie
subsequently moved a motion in the HOA for a committee to make a decision on whether the legal fees should be paid by taxpayers instead.