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The Government of the Virgin Islands has provided the United Kingdom’s Commission of Inquiry (COI) with the largest official collection of data ever assembled in the history of the Virgin Islands, new statistics reveal.
Since it was announced in January this year, the COI has received from the Government, the Inquiry Response Unit (IRU) or the Government’s legal advisers:
The timeframes given by the COI for information it demanded (often just a week) have often been extremely challenging, and invariably prioritised its own deadlines above the many competing requirements for the time and attention of the Government.
Commenting on the latest statistics, the Attorney General said, “It has rightly been the aim of the Government of the Virgin Islands, from the start, to co-operate with the Commission of Inquiry thoroughly.”
“Doing so has taken enormous amounts of time and effort on behalf of Ministers and both senior and junior Public Officers, who had many other duties at a time of global crisis,” Honourable Smith said.
She added, “It has not always seemed that the COI understood the extraordinary pressures which its demands have placed upon the limited numbers of officers in a Public Service which is far smaller than that of the UK, which has not been modernised for decades, and whose records have not been maintained to a consistent standard over the years or were very substantially affected by Hurricane Irma.”
Honourable Smith also said, “The COI has heard evidence, and made observations, about the undoubted problems which face the administrative machinery of the Virgin Islands, but perhaps has not appreciated that its own working methods have directly and significantly increased those problems throughout a year when there have been other (and indeed multiple) unusual or emergency circumstances as well.”
She stated, “Indeed, the impact of the Commission of Inquiry itself upon efficient, timely and effective administration in these islands has been significant in the context of coping with COVID-19 and in the continuing aftermath and consequences of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Its cascading and constant demands placed a strain upon our already severely overstretched Public Service.”
She further added, “It is important to stress that our Public Service has not broken under this strain, and our Public Officers have done a great job in very difficult circumstances. As the COI evidence gathering phase nears its end, I wish to record my thanks to Public Officers for their extraordinary and genuinely immense efforts.”
The Inquiry Response Unit was established on 5 February 2021 to assist the Government of the Virgin Islands with responding to Commission of Inquiry requests.