In keeping with the Government’s commitment to uphold the principles of good governance, the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands approved the publication of Cabinet documents relating to proposed tender waivers.
Under the Framework for Implementation of the Recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry Report (COI) and other Reforms in combination with Recommendation B19 of the COI Report relating to Contracts states that, “The Cabinet agrees a standing waiver to allow publication of the Cabinet documents relating to Memoranda proposing tender waiver.”
The new Public Procurement Act, 2021 and Public Procurement Regulations, 2022 came into force on 6th September, 2022. This brought a new set of policy guidelines on how procurement matters are to be administered, and eliminated the provision of a waiver that is included in Public Finance Management Regulations, 2005. The new Act, however, makes provision for a transitional period for outstanding procurement matters, in process, to be administered.
There are statutory obligations for the publication of contracts; therefore, all documents in support of decisions where a tender waiver is proposed will be made public in compliance with Recommendation B19 of the Framework.
The publicising of tender waiver presents another opportunity for the Government to position itself as one willing to strengthen its institutional pillars by implementing systems to promote transparency and accountability—two underpinning principles of good governance.
His Excellency the Governor John J. Rankin, CMG CMG welcomed the decision of the Government of the National Unity in favour of publication of Cabinet documents relating to tender waivers. He stated, “This is in line with Commission of Inquiry recommendation B19 and the principles of transparency to which we must all remain committed.” Regarding transparency, he said, “Proper and transparent procurement is the best way to ensure that public money is well spent and it is important that going forward open tendering is firmly established as the norm under the Public Procurement act 2021.”
Premier the Honourable Dr. Natalio Wheatley stated that his Administration was committed to the implementation of the COI recommendations. In relation to Recommendation B19 he said, “we are committed to a transparent, fair and accountable procurement process.” However, he noted that the Procurement made provision to exempt certain categories of goods and services from the procurement process.
He added that the Public Finance Management Act would still require contracts of over $100,000 to come to Cabinet. He stated, “In such cases Cabinet would still have to waive the requirement of the procurement process even though they were exempted by the Procurement Act” adding, “in doing so, the Government is adhering to the laws of the Virgin Islands.” The Premier was also keen to point out that his administration was still considering legacy contracts from before the Public Procurement Act came into force.
Tender Waivers will be publicised under the following guidelines:
- Cabinet documents will be published after confirmation of the minutes and within three (3) days after the signing and registering of the contract.
- Information in Cabinet documents will be redacted if its non-publication is necessary for the protection of the national security of the Virgin Islands or if its disclosure would:
- be contrary to law;
- impede law enforcement;
- prejudice legitimate commercial interests of a particular supplier; or
- impede fair competition.
- Legal advice, and the advice of the National Security Council in accordance with Section 57 (3) of the Virgin Islands Constitution (2007) Order, will be sought as necessary in determining whether redactions are required.
- Any amendments made to documents would be re-published, once approved by the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands.
- The published Cabinet documents will be also available on bvi.gov.vg, Government’s Facebook page, the Virgin Islands Official Gazette’s website and on Twitter.
The publiscising of tender waivers marks another milestone in this Territory’s journey as a politically mature jurisdiction that is willing to embrace the principles of openness, transparency and accountability, which are also central to an effective and proactive communication process.
The Cabinet of the Virgin Islands is constitutionally charged with the formulation of policy, including directing the implementation of those policies. It is also collectively responsible to the House of Assembly for such policies and their implementation.
The Cabinet of the Virgin Islands, which meets every Wednesday, is supported by the Cabinet Office, which facilitates and monitors the implementation of executive decision-making within the government.