DRAFT UK ORDER-IN-COUNCIL CAUSES CONCERN IN ANGUILLA Government Says UK Chief Financial Advisor Not Needed

anguillian
By anguillian October 27, 2015 08:50

 

 

 

aufThere has been much heated debate in Anguilla over the past several days regarding The Anguilla Public Finance Order 2015. (See the proposed document at page 6 of this paper.) It is a draft Order-in-Council which the UK Government proposes to enact, and wants the unwilling Anguilla Government to insert some of its stringent requirements into the island’s Constitution now again being pursued.
A key element of the Draft Order is the proposed imposition of a UK Chief Financial Adviser to sit in the Ministry of Finance with a set of overriding powers, supportive of the Governor in Anguilla. It is an oversight situation which the Anguilla United Front Government is vehemently opposed to, and is marshalling the support of the Opposition, the Government itself, and the entire citizenry, to rally against together. The effect of the proposal is being seen “as a regressive step for the people of Anguilla”.
The issue was the main subject of a press conference called by the Anguilla Government on Tuesday afternoon, October 20. The speakers on the particular matter were Chief Minister and Minister of Finance, Mr. Victor Banks, and Mrs. Cora Richardson-Hodge, in her capacity as Minister of Home Affairs with responsibility for constitutional matters as part of her portfolio. They were accompanied by Mr. Curtis Richardson, Minister of Infrastructure; his Assistant, Mr. Othlyn Vanterpool; and Mr. Evalie Bradley, Assistant in the Ministry of Home Affairs, all of whom spoke on separate matters relating to the functioning of their respective Ministries.
Chief Minister Banks opened the discussions on The Anguilla Public Finance Order 2015 which was headed up as being a “Revised Alternative Draft of 9 June 2015”, indicating that it was around for some time before. Mr. Banks, who made that determination, said the proposed document only came to the attention of his Government when Mr. Tim Colley, Deputy Director of the Overseas Territories Directortate at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, handed a copy to Minister Cora Richardson Hodge while visiting Anguilla during the week of October 5.
Mr. Banks stated that the Draft Order had been “around for a long time and some aspects of it had been reflected in the Turks & Caicos Islands’ Constitution. “That came as a result of whatever incidents occurred in the Turks & Caicos over the years,” he told reporters. “In the case of Anguilla, we are strongly of the opinion that the Constitution already provides, in Section 56, an opportunity for the Governor, if he or she so wishes, to carry out whatever functions are required in emergency situations – and it is our view that there is no need for any specific provisions to be placed in our Constitution further than that.
“I do not recall at any time when it was necessary for the British Government to take any high-handed action in the Anguilla situation…So the situation in Anguilla does not necessitate this kind of action being taken; and we have indicated that we are of this view. Obviously, it is something that the British Government is trying to put in the various Overseas Territories’ Constitutions…In the case of Anguilla, what is happening here has nothing to do with the conduct whether of this Government or the past Government. We are in a period of challenge that was caused not by our own making, but by the world’s economic situation – and over the period I have indicated there is no reason why the Government of Anguilla should be held accountable for anything that would necessitate a movement like this.
“The 35 years that I have been associated with politics in Anguilla, there has been no reason for the British Government to intervene because there have been no incidents which, as I have said earlier, to necessitate that. So that is our position. We have made a strong case regarding that, and I am writing to the Minister [for the Overseas Territories]. I have spoken to him about these issues. I got a copy of the draft Order from Mrs. Cora Richardson Hodge who is responsible for the Constitution. When the Deputy Director of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was on the island, I insisted that he should meet with her because she was delegated by the Government to look after the Constitution process and Electoral Reform.”
Chief Minister Banks stressed that the draft Order was not something brand new. “In 2012, Mr. Bellingham, in writing to the Chief Minister [Mr. Hubert Hughes], indicated that, because of the tight economic situation in Anguilla, if the occasion arose that we were not able to meet their requirements, from a budgetary standpoint, they may be forced to implement a Public Finance Management of a higher level. That letter went out in August 2012. You will also recall that the past Chief Minister [Hughes] had also indicated in a letter, to the British Government, that he was concerned about issues affecting taxation – that Anguilla was a failed state – and was calling on the British Government for some support. Surely, he was not calling to provide financial management of any kind. I think that the Government of Anguilla has demonstrated over the years that it is capable and able to manage its own finances…”

Minister Cora Richardson Hodge said she had met with Mr. Tim Colley on Friday, October 9. The discussions included the desire of many Anguillians to have belongership extended to grandchildren – in the Constitution – and a number of other matters including island-wide elections. It was at that meeting that he handed her a copy of the draft Order-in-Council and a copy for Chief Minister Banks.
According to the Minister, a Lawyer by profession, she told Mr. Colley: “I will certainly look through it but, based on what I can see, I can tell you that if you are saying that Anguilla is in a Turks & Caicos situation, you will have a very difficult time imposing this on the people of Anguilla. He handed me a copy of the document to be handed as well to the Chief Minister, which said to me that Mr. Banks did not have a copy prior to that time.”
She continued: “Mr. Colley said that he would like to see certain provisions included in our Anguilla Constitution, but what struck me was that this is a ‘Revised Alternative Draft’ which suggested that there had been a draft somewhere earlier…I found that in 2012 in fact, that these discussions had been ongoing for some time.” She quoted in part a letter to former Chief Minister, Mr. Hughes, in August 2012 stating that:
Any year end deficit would breach the personal commitment you volunteered to me and more recently confirmed to Mr. Duncan in November 2011 to balance the overall budget by the beginning of 2013. Without further action on your part, there is a serious risk that the public finances will continue to deteriorate. That will of course increase the risk that you will have to decide to charge the UK for assistance. I cannot prejudice a decision about budgetary or project assistance if you requested it, but you are aware that such support will inevitably involve attaching strict conditions including control over Public Financial Management.

Mrs. Richardson Hodge went on: “What this document is simply saying is that if the UK has to provide assistance to Anguilla, then they would want strict control – and to quote his [Bellingham] words – control over Public Financial Management. It occurs to me that this would have been somewhere around the time when discussions were being held with respect to a Chief Financial Adviser; and, as I said, it appears that these discussions have been taking place for quite some time.”
The Anguillian Government Minister noted that in 2009 the British Government assumed direct rule over the Turks & Caicos Islands, among allegations of corruption. In 2009, there was a Commission of Inquiry that said: There was a high probability of systemic corruption in Government. “The British Government [went] in TCI at that point in time. They were there for a period of three years and during that time they imposed the requirement of a Chief Financial Adviser; and even though the new Constitution was passed in 2012, that Chief Financial Adviser position still maintains today; so it has flowed over from the direct rule into the Constitution and they currently, based on my research, still have a Chief Financial Adviser in TCI today.”

The Minister was even more explicit in her findings; “Anguilla and TCI are not on the same footing in my view, and I am sure that many Anguillians would take the same position,” she emphasised. “There has been no Commission of Inquiry where anyone has come to Anguilla and made a determination, based on any further investigation or inquiry, that there is widespread corruption in Anguilla. So, in my view, there is no basis for any reason to impose these stringent provisions that [the British Government] is seeking to impose on Anguilla.
“In fact, this is increased oversight and I am taking off my ministerial hat now, and I am putting on my hat as a voter, as an Anguillian, as a person living and residing in Anguilla. In my view, this increased oversight that is being sought by the British is actually a regressive step for the people of Anguilla; and it has the potential to set Anguilla and its people back substantively.
“Anguilla is a democratic country and the appointment of a Chief Financial Officer [Advisor], who would have the ability to ignore the intentions and decisions of the Elected Representatives, can do a lot of damage in our country – and Anguilla has to be given the opportunity and the space to be able to make its way forward as a developing country. In my view, The Anguilla Public Finance Order or any provision that it is seeking to impose goes to the heart and dignity of Anguillians. Mr. Banks has spoken generally about it and has indicated his position on it. It is my position, and I believe the position of the entire Anguilla United Front that we will vehemently oppose the imposition of any attempt by the British to further whittle away the rights of Anguillians – and to have further and greater oversight over Anguilla.
“It is time, I think, to put aside the petty politics,” she added.
Chief Minister Banks had the final statements. “I have a letter drafted to send to the Minister [for the Overseas Territories]. I spoke to the Minister on the telephone about what he is thinking about. His officials have spoken to me through Tim Colley about this idea about a Chief Financial Officer to assist the Ministry of Finance.
“Their idea of the CFA or the CFO is not [going] to be looking over my shoulder to assist us; and then they have these additional powers – should things not go right and we become a rogue Government and decide that we are not doing what the British want – that that person can overrule, with the support of the Governor and Secretary of State, decisions that we make; dissolve Boards which include Social Security, the ANGLEC Board – any Board and reconstitute any Boards. These are things that you will have to ask yourself the question, how can they be done?”

“First of all, the Chief Financial Officer in Anguilla would be one man who would be [strapped] with this responsibility. I don’t know what kind of skills sets that person would have that is not available in Anguilla. I don’t know what kind of experience that person would have in economic development and finance in small states. But this person would be coming here to tell the Elected Government – persons who have been in Government for thirty-five years, who have successfully managed the economy of Anguilla, without any serious hiccups, or any challenges for the British Government to come in – and tell us what to do.”
Chief Minister Banks added: “These are the concerns I have because I believe it is disrespectful and insulting to the Government and the people of Anguilla that that should happen. There must be another way that this could be managed.”

anguillian
By anguillian October 27, 2015 08:50

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