COI Implementation Unit
Premier's Office
Good Governance
Release Date:
Wednesday, 26 July 2023 - 12:51pm






3:00 P.M.

A pleasant Good Day to all the people of these beautiful Virgin Islands.

I am pleased to come before you to provide another update on matters pertinent to the work of your Government. Today’s focus will be on our new strategy in reporting on the implementation of the COI  recommendations, the ongoing efforts to launch the Standard Integrated Government Tax Administration System (SIGTAS 3.0), and the upcoming Caribbean Overseas Territories Leaders Meeting which is scheduled for this Saturday, 30 July, 2023, in Miami and where I will be representing the interests of the people of the Virgin Islands.

As you aware, in June 2022, the Government of the Virgin Islands agreed to a Framework for Implementation of the recommendations of the COI and other reforms and preparatory steps for implementation. Since then, ministries and departments have been working tirelessly to implement the recommendations according to this plan and continue on the path to reform.

As we embarked on this process last year, we did recognise early in the implementation, that some of the deadlines were ambitious and did not take certain factors such as dissolution of the House of Assembly, the time needed for  public consultation, as well the fact that commencement of some tasks were dependent on the completion of other tasks.

For example, if we look at Recommendation B7, which deals with the review of assistance grants, the comprehensive review of the welfare benefits and grants system. This required a more extensive review than originally anticipated. This particular recommendation required the House of Assembly to introduce legislation in accordance with the recommendations of the review by 28 February, 2023. However, by that time the House of Assembly had been dissolved to make way for the holding of General Elections within the constitutional timeframe. Even prior to the commencement of the review, it was recognised that a more extensive review was required to bring about the required change. Additionally, the Government recognises the need to engage stakeholders at different stages in the policy process. The involvement of people in major decisions concerning their governance is a cornerstone of democracy. Hence, the Ministry of Health is currently consulting the public for feedback on the report even before drafting instructions can be created for Cabinet’s consideration. This is just one example of why it may be perceived by some that adequate progress is not being made.

I am now pleased that the Ministries and Departments have submitted more realistic deadlines and are making steady progress on our path to reform.

I do believe, however, that anyone who is in possession of the facts and the processes involved would appreciate and be aware of the true measure of progress that is taking place and why it would be unjustified to hold and to spread such negative and inaccurate perceptions.

Both the UK Government representatives and the Virgin Islands Government have repeatedly said that this is not a box-ticking exercise. The ultimate goal, that has been espoused, is one of meaningful change and improvements. And our implementation team continues to be guided by this.

The Government of the Virgin Islands has allocated substantial resources towards the implementation of the COI Recommendations. The Implementation Unit was established, several reviewers were appointed, and additional funding was provided to the major implementing agencies. Now that the majority of reviews and audits have been completed, we are now embarking on a different phase in the reform process.

It is important to pause and appreciate here that in a number of instances, the audit reports would have been essential for identifying what specific gaps needed to be addressed in the particular area, and how we should go about closing those gaps and further strengthening the systems.

Before I turn my attention to discuss how we will be moving forward, I am aware that the subject of processing residence and belonger status applications has been an area of concern. While it has been reported that there is a huge backlog of applications, without a clear definition of the word ‘backlog’, the message conveyed can be misleading. While we are working toward providing applicants with a more defined processing period, in my view, we do not consider applications that were submitted since June 2022, which represent 74 percent of pending applications, as backlog applications. Let me thank those who have been awaiting processing of their applications for their patience and assure them that we are committed with dealing with them in a fair and transparent manner. Currently, we are in the process of appointing a new chair and additional members of the Board of Immigration which will help with the processing of pending applications. I have already submitted a plan of action to the Governor for addressing the pending applications, so that is another testament of our commitment to this process.

On a related matter, I am very pleased to report that today I received the final reviewer’s report which is under the Government’s remit from Mr. Kedrick Malone for Recommendation B33. This review examined the policy and processes for granting residence and belonger status, including the open discretion by Cabinet to grant such statuses. Following the submission of the report to Cabinet and tabling it in the House of Assembly, the Government will engage in a series of stakeholder consultations on the subject. I will be looking forward to the active participation of everyone during these consultations.

The only two outstanding reviews now are Recommendation B38 – review of the law enforcement and justice systems and Recommendation B41 which will be the panel to ensure that the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and other law enforcement agencies have the facilities and powers to prevent, monitor and detect crime and prepare matters for prosecution. Both of these are under the Governor’s remit, so he would be able to provide an update during his next quarterly review.

Between now and May 2024, the public can expect to hear about additional changes arising out of the reform. To  determine the effectiveness of the various reforms, it will be necessary to implement systems and processes for tracking the changes and measuring their impact. Ministries have now identified measures of success and have been documenting the institutional changes to measure their success in implementing the recommendations.

The focus has now shifted to cross-ministry collaboration and stakeholder consultation to commence the process of creating policies and making deeper reformative changes from the reports and audits that have been submitted thus far. As I said, logistically, those reports were essential to the overall efforts.

What matters to us is that we are thorough in the development and implementation of the policies, systems and processes coming out of this exercise, so that we can have the meaningful and transformative results that we all desire, and so that the outcome of this process will be lasting, and we will not have to be engaging in double-work. Our aim is to ensure that the Virgin Islands comes out of this exercise better than we have ever been before.

We are setting up structures and practices to ensure that we continue not only to do things right but to keep doing things in a better way. We are seeking to ensure that the COI Implementation Framework grows into something deeper and more meaningful as we shift into completion mode.

That is why today we are launching “Government Business at its Best”, a Virgin Islands Modern Governance Approach. This campaign is not only aimed at informing and educating stakeholders on the implementation of the recommendations but is expected to aid in providing the necessary information to stakeholders so that any inaccurate, misinformed or misleading perceptions about the work that the Government and public officers have been doing to implement the 49 recommendations from the COI, the progress that has been made and our other commitments and achievements, can be set straight. This is also in line with the Government’s commitment to transparency and accountability.

The “Government Business at its Best” initiative seeks to communicate the greater achievements of the Government to not only action recommendations but also demonstrate actions to effect change and create new policies that will transform the Public Service for greater transparency, sustainability and accountability.

Our reporting will henceforth, go beyond simply reporting on recommendations completed, to communicating on our overarching theme, Government Business at its Best, through our 10 key messages:

  1. Inclusion – providing greater opportunities for stakeholders and individuals of all demographics while prioritizing diversification of the Public Service;
  2. Easier Access to Services – providing access to Government resources and services for all individuals of all demographics including digital and remote services and services for differently abled persons and sister islanders;
  3. Greater Enforcement – a commitment to enforcing new and existing legislation in a fair and transparent manner;
  4. Enhanced Safety and Security – enhancing resources and policies related to national security and safety;
  5. Effective Communication – sharing Government information and updates in a timely, transparent and accessible manner for all stakeholders;
  6. Socio Economic and Political Stability – providing socio-economic and political stability to the people of the Virgin Islands b prioritizing good governance practices in line with international standards;
  7. Value for Money – ensuring that all public investments and spending are of value and provide tangible benefits to the Virgin Islands as a whole;
  8. Continued Accountability – Government’s commitment to being held accountable for all decisions made on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands in a consistent manner; 
  9. Greater Transparency – increasing transparency efforts across all ministries and ensuring public awareness of relevant processes in the public sector; and
  10. Building Capacity – strengthening resources, support and funding for Government initiatives.

During the past year, we have accomplished a lot. The COI Implementation Unit continues to publish monthly status reports. At the end of June 2023, work had begun on 49 of the 50 recommendations. Twenty-four of these recommendations have been completed, while the other 25 are in progress, many of which are at an advanced stage. The recommendations are currently split into 131 actions, 76 of which or 58% have been completed.

These numbers alone, however, do not tell the story of all that has transpired and our overall progress in the reform programme. In everything we are doing, our mission is to bring about positive change. We are building on the Government of the Virgin Islands’ strong history of public sector reform programmes, the ongoing Public Sector Transformation and the National Sustainable Development Plan; they all connect as the base for how our Government does its utmost to give the exceptional service that our people deserve.

Ministries have now embarked on a plan to work collaboratively to inform the public on how improvements are made to system.

I would like to give some examples on how we have been addressing some of these key messages.

  • We have approved a Protocol for the appointment and removal of statutory board members. This provides for greater transparency through the advertisement of vacancies and also allows for inclusion in that it provides term limits for members to serve on the Board, thus providing more opportunities for persons to serve.
  • In the pipeline is an updated Constitution that moves us forward with more socio economic and political stability, inclusion and capacity building that will position us to accelerate our development. 
  • We are refreshing our system of social assistance grants in all areas including for the most vulnerable of our society and for education and personal development. This incorporates greater transparency, ensures value for your money, supports the socio economic and political stability of our Territory, allows easier access to services and ensures continued accountability for the persons administering the systems. A key aim is to ensure that those who genuinely need assistance get the help they require. Currently, both the Ministry of Health and Social Development and the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports are seeking the public’s input on the draft reviews, so I encourage persons to submit their feedback. We need to hear from you on what your needs are and how best the Government can support you. 
  • Various reviews of statutory boards have now been completed. The recommendations include several measures to ensure greater transparency, value for your money, continued accountability and inclusion.

The Government is committed to doing things better. That is why we are taking the time to ensure that once reviews are received, they are submitted to Cabinet, tabled in the House of Assembly to make them public documents and then Ministries are developing action plans for Cabinet’s approval. Following this process, we are engaging stakeholders for feedback. It is important that we hear from you throughout this process.

In the coming weeks, as the ministries collaborate on conveying our progress through the key messages, we invite you to provide feedback when the opportunities are presented. We are aiming to remain connected, so we invite you to do the same.

Standard Integrated Government Tax Administration System

Secondly, I would like to speak about the ongoing efforts to launch the Standard Integrated Government Tax Administration System (SIGTAS 3.0) upgrade which is a major milestone for our tax administration system in the Virgin Islands, and is targeted to go live within the third quarter of 2023. In October 2021, the Government of the Virgin Islands embarked on this upgrade project with a level of focus and dedication, and at this juncture, I would personally like to thank the hard-working project team comprised of officers from the Inland Revenue Department and the Department of Information Technology, for their unwavering support to this project.

SIGTAS is the Standard Integrated Government Tax Administration System, a software solution that helps governments manage their tax revenue and compliance. It is presently utilised by over 30 countries around the world, including British Virgin Islands. SIGTAS 3.0 is the latest version of the system, which offers several new features and enhancements that will benefit both the tax authorities and the taxpayers.

Some of the key benefits of SIGTAS 3.0 :

- Improved user- friendly interface and navigation, which makes it easy to navigate and perform various tasks, and also easier and faster to access and process information;

- It has integrated online services, which enables you to register, file, pay and communicate with us electronically, saving you, the taxpayer, time and hassle;

- Enhanced security and data protection, ensuring that confidential information is safeguarded and compliant with international standards;

- Increased automation and integration, reducing manual work and errors, and enabling seamless communication between different modules and systems;

- Expanded functionality and flexibility, allowing for additional customization and configuration options to suit the specific needs and preferences the BVI tax system;

- The system is web-based, which means you can access it from any device with an internet connection, such as your laptop, tablet or smartphone;

- It has improved reporting and analytics, which allows us to generate more accurate and timely reports and statistics on tax performance and compliance; and

The SIGTAS 3.0 upgrade was deployed in phases, in October 2021, with the following completed to date:

D2- Application Deployment


User Acceptability Training


D3- Technical Upgrade

SIGTAS Core Modules

D6- E-tax Delivery



e-Payment (to be completed August 2023)

The final phases of the project will involve the training and support of the end users, as well as the launch and operation of the new system, the evaluation and feedback of the new system, as well as the resolution of any technical issues that may arise.

I would like to take this opportunity to make a public appeal to all taxpayers (Individuals and Businesses) to register, as new unique Tax Identifier Numbers (TIN) are now being assigned and is necessary for the full launching of this system.

To help you prepare for this transition, Central Government has a dedicated team of experts who are ready to assist taxpayers with registration. We have also established Kiosks at the Inland Revenue department for taxpayers to register with assistance from officers. Taxpayers are to provide a valid passport or driver’s licence, along with their Social Security card, and an email address to register. Online registration is also available at

The SIGTAS 3.0 upgrade is a significant milestone for BVI, as it will enable The Territory to further introduce a state of the art medium, to improve our tax administration efficiency and effectiveness, as well as to provide better service and value to our taxpayers. It also ushers in a dawn for allowing taxpayers greater access and flexibility for online payments, via the Government e-payment gateway.

Engagement with Regional and International Leaders

Thirdly, let me briefly report on our ongoing engagement with regional and international leaders. This morning, I had the privilege of attending the virtual pre-Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) meeting to discuss critical matters that deeply affect our partnership with the United Kingdom. The Overseas Territories are partners in this relationship, and it is essential that our voices are heard and our concerns addressed. Today's meeting set the tone for the upcoming JMC later this year, where we will have the opportunity to further strengthen our relationship and address key issues affecting our territories.

Topics discussed included: access to banking and financial services; health; OT financing and the ability for Overseas Territories to draw down on such funding; UK assistance in helping OTs to transition to the green economy;  Overseas Territories Day and Overseas Territories Youth Summit.

This upcoming Saturday, 29 July, 2023, I will be joining leaders from across the Caribbean Overseas Territories in Miami for the Caribbean OT Leaders Meeting. This gathering is an opportunity for us to engage with other leaders from the Caribbean Overseas Territories, to exchange views on issues of mutual concern, and find common ground on various matters. By identifying priority areas ahead of the upcoming Joint Ministerial Council meeting later this year, we can amplify our collective voice and work towards solutions that benefit all our territories. As we confront various challenges and seize new opportunities, unity and solidarity among the OTs are paramount.

I will continue to provide updates on the reforms and other matters as the need arises.

I thank you and I would now welcome questions from the media.