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Premier warns public against sharing unredacted info from leaked Audit Report

Premier warns public against sharing unredacted info from leaked Audit Report

Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) has warned against the public sharing of “unredacted” information contained in the Assistance Grants Audit Report, which was recently leaked allegedly by a Member of Cabinet.

Debating the Report at the Fourth Sitting of the 5th Session of the 4th House of Assembly (HoA) today, March 9, 2023, Dr Wheatley warned that circulating 'unredacted' information is a serious offence.

He said those who made the decision to expose the identities of the 4000 people contained in this document have decided to go against the recommendations of the Auditor General, the Governor and himself who have all agreed to have the names in the report redacted.

Document was 'all over the street' after reaching Cabinet- Premier

“The first thing that I’m going to do, Madam Speaker, before I say anything about the contents of this report, is to condemn, in the strongest fashion, the unauthorised release of this document into the public…the Auditor General made a decision, the Governor concurred, the Premier concurred. This document was redacted, for good reason”, Dr Wheatley said.

He continued that the report had been sent to him and the Governor around December 30, 2022, and was not leaked at the time.

He noted; however, that when it finally went to Cabinet, it was “all over the street” right after.
Ministers of Cabinet. From left: Honourable Sharie B. de Castro (AL), Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports; Honourable Melvin M. Turnbull (R2), Minister for Natural Resources and Labour; Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7), Premier and Minister of Finance; Honourable Kye M. Rymer (R5), Deputy Premier and Minister for Communications and Works; and Honourable Marlon A. Penn (R8), Minister for Health and Social Development.

Sharing 'redacted' info 'a serious offense'

“I’m hearing, Madam Speaker, persons on the radio speaking about this unredacted report, saying that as soon as it’s laid on the table they’ll be able to speak about it…I want to make it very clear, this report that we have just laid on the table is a redacted version and I want to caution persons out there, if you go and share this unredacted version even after we’ve laid this on the table, you are violating the confidentiality of a Cabinet document. It is a serious offence and you must not do it”, the Premier warned.

Dr Wheatley added that circulating the document shows that those who shared this information chose to make a decision that is clearly not theirs and are taking this action into their own hands.

“Who is anybody to go and put those persons' names on the streets? I’m extremely disappointed at the decision that someone made to leak this document to the public and expose those persons”, he said.

Dr Wheatley noted that even in the redacted version the amounts given to each person can be seen.

The Premier argued that the people of the Virgin Islands are a proud people and it would have taken them a lot to ask the government for help and would have preferred their business to remain private.

He also said he had no apologies for legislators and the government trying to help the people of the Virgin Islands, especially to assist with acquiring tertiary education.

“Why was it necessary to go and embarrass these people in the way it was done? Why was that necessary? What, for politics? We have to stop destroying each other just for politics and for power…In trying to hurt me or trying to hurt somebody else you end up hurting a whole bunch of other people- collateral damage”, Dr Wheatley stressed.

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