Opposition legislator Carvin Malone had previously expressed concerns that Withers did not produce a parallel COI report, despite the government paying the firm more than six million dollars to provide legal representation in the COI last year.
Since the Premier said there was no requirement for Withers to draft a parallel COI report, Malone asked Dr Wheatley whether the terms and reference for engagement with Withers required the firm to at least write a ‘response’ to the COI report and whether this response was delivered.
Premier Wheatley replied that while a detailed response would be prepared, this was put on hold at the time because of government’s pressing negotiations with the United Kingdom on how to implement the recommended COI reforms without suspending the BVI’s constitution.
However, he added that Withers stands ready to move forward once instructed.
“The terms of the engagement did not include this parallel report that this member (Malone) referred to, but it was intended that a written response would come forward,” Dr Wheatley stated while confirming that a total of 6,939,320.43 was expended for Withers’ services.
Dr Wheatley further suggested that it would not be “a prudent use of resources” to “spend at least a million dollars more to produce this response … given we (the government) already agreed to implement the recommendations in our framework document”.
“But as I have said before, Withers stands ready if we collectively agree that we would want to spend this additional million dollars on this written response to the report and that is the way we would like to spend that money, Withers is standing ready and waiting to provide this response. I am aware of the honourable member’s (Malone) position and certainly, we can have more discussions as to whether we all agree or even the public agrees that this is the best use of the resources and then we can go ahead and engage Withers. That is not a challenge,” Dr Wheatley further said.
When contacted for a response on the issue, a representative from Withers’ Public Relations Unit told BVI News: “I’m afraid that due to legal requirements, we aren’t in a position to give you a response on this question”.