Education Minister and Deputy Premier, Dr Natalio Wheatley, has described the Register of Interests Act as flawed and toothless.
Effectively, the Register of Interests is a record kept of the financial interests of legislators. Its purpose is to give them the mechanism to publicly declare any private interests which may conflict or may be perceived to conflict with their public duties.
While contributing to the debate on the Integrity and Public Life Act in the House of Assembly recently, Dr Wheatley said the Register of Interests Act has been flawed from inception.
The Register of Interests Act came in for some scrutiny during the Commission of Inquiry
after it was revealed that most legislators did not comply with the provisions of the Act upon entering public office.
“The public register was flawed from the beginning and that is part of why we got into a problem with that, it was flawed. Because when it was passed it was toothless,” Dr Wheatley stated.
The Deputy Premier argued that any similar occurrence should be avoided by suitably establishing and empowering the Integrity Commission through the Integrity in Public Life Act.
“If you don’t give the Commission powers it will be toothless, and we have passed enough pieces of toothless legislation in here, just to say that we passed it,” Dr Wheatley said.
He also pointed to statements made by former Foreign Secretary in the UK, Dominic Raab
, about corrupt officials in the BVI.
He said the statements were made on the basis of no evidence being presented. Dr Wheatley said the claims were damaging to the territory’s reputation, financial services sector, tourism sector as well as that of the officials in public office.
He added that the institution of an Integrity Commission sends the right signal to potential investors, residents, visitors and persons who do business with the BVI.
“It sends the right signal to them that we’re serious about preventing acts of corruption and investigating acts of corruption and prosecuting acts of corruption,” the minister said.