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Turks and Caicos Islands

Volume 497: debated on Monday 12 October 2009

On 12 August the Court of Appeal in London dismissed the appeal brought by former Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) Premier Michael Misick challenging our proposed action to tackle corruption in the Islands. Two days later I announced that I had instructed the Governor to bring into force an Order in Council suspending ministerial Government and the House of Assembly for a period of up to two years. The Order also suspended the constitutional right to trial by jury in TCI, which provides the possibility in future of having trials by judge alone in the TCI Supreme Court in appropriate cases.

This was a serious constitutional step which the Government did not take lightly. But these measures were essential in order to restore the principles of good governance and sound financial management. It remains our intention that elections should be held by July 2011, if not sooner.

In his final report, Sir Robin Auld confirmed that there was information in abundance pointing to a high probability of systemic corruption and/or serious dishonesty in TCI. In Sir Robin’s view this, together with clear signs of political amorality and immaturity and of general administrative incompetence, demonstrated a need for urgent suspension in whole or in part of the constitution and for other legislative and administrative reforms. Sir Robin also made preliminary recommendations including the institution of criminal investigations in relation to Michael Misick, and four of his former Cabinet ministers. He confirmed the recommendation in the interim report for the establishment of a Civil and Criminal Recovery Unit and the appointment of a special prosecutor.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sir Robin and his team for their hard work, determination and dedication which has produced such a detailed and comprehensive report. The Governor has taken the following steps towards ensuring that the principles of good governance, sustainable development and sound financial management can be restored as quickly as possible:

An Advisory Council, chaired by the Governor, and a Consultative Forum, have been appointed by the Governor. Both bodies have now met and continue to do so regularly. They will ensure that the voice and views of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands continue to be heard.

A full review of the TCI Governments finances has been undertaken and, in discussion with the Advisory Council and following debate in the Consultative Forum, further measures put in place to limit public expenditure, increase revenue and bring the islands’ debt under control. The Governor published a new budget at the end of September.

A range of (UK) Government-funded advisers is now in place to offer support and guidance not only to the Governor, but also to the public service. They are working in key areas of concern, as identified in Sir Robin Auld’s final report such as public financial management, crown land, customs and good governance. We are looking to appoint others to assist in areas such as immigration and constitutional and electoral reform.

The Chief Executive has launched an extensive restructuring of TCP s public service. A major review of TCI Ministries has been completed to help provide more efficient and effective public services. This has included the creation of two new Ministries: Border Control, and Tourism, Trade and Economic Development. New Permanent Secretaries (all TC Islanders) have been appointed. Membership of statutory boards has also been updated.

Work is underway to strengthen a number of areas of public sector delivery. Emphasis is also being placed on improving the ethics and culture of public service, particularly with respect to transparency and ensuring that all public sector decisions are taken in line with clear published policies. Additionally, public complaints and redress procedures are being strengthened.

A special prosecutor, Helen Garlick, and her team have been appointed and paid an initial visit to TCI in August. They have presented their initial scoping project to the Governor.

The Governor has undertaken a series of town hall meetings and has visited all the main inhabited islands: Salt Cay, South Caicos, Middle Caicos, North Caicos and Providenciales, as well as Grand Turk. This has given him the opportunity to explain to the general public what the interim Government means for them, to answer their questions, and to hear their concerns.