For the second time this year, elected leaders voted to have Deputy Speaker Neville ‘Sheep’ Smith remain in his seat in the House of Assembly (HOA) after he (Smith) disclosed that his company will be doing business with the government.
In March this year, Smith’s company Caribbean Security entered into a contract with the government to upgrade the Attorney General’s Chambers’ security system for a total sum of $33,149.12.
And on November 24, Smith again sought the exemption from vacating his seat because his company inked another contract with the government – this time to provide security and surveillance equipment to His Majesty’s prison for a total of $17,633.93.
Smith’s request for an exemption is lawful in the BVI according to Section 67 of the Constitution which states that HOA members are expected to vacate their seat if they or their firm are party to a contract with the government.
However, a clause in the same section allows for the member to remain in the House if they disclose the nature of the contract and their interest before entering the contract with the government.
Before members voted to have Smith remain in his seat, Premier Wheatley highlighted that the practice of elected leaders doing business with the government is not new and is lawful once leaders declare their interest according to the provisions set out in the constitution.
“It’s important to note as well that the contract has not yet been entered into, which I know in the past has been subject to scrutiny. He (Smith) has been very careful to ensure he has not entered into a contract before coming to the House to receive this exemption,” Premier Wheatley said.
The Commission of Inquiry
had revealed that in 2020 and 2021, Smith’s company had entered into at least two contracts with the government for eight months without it being declared to the House of Assembly. At that time, Smith had said he didn’t know about the contracts because he had stepped away from the day-to-day operations of the business since entering politics.
After that revelation, an emergency virtual meeting was called in the House of Assembly and Smith was granted retroactive exemption from vacating his seat for those two contracts.