Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
The Virgin Islands Government between 2010 and 2011 turned a blind eye to evidence of misconduct surrounding the issuance of trade licenses, according to a new report from the Department of Trade and Consumer Affairs.
The department's 2011 report compiled by the then Director, Lizette George, stated that over two years, evidence of misconduct and negligent behavior surfaced with a number of trade license applications which were not sent through the proper channels for application.
According to the report, despite not have the licenses processed through the right channels, there were licenses distributed to the applicants.
George indicated that she brought the revelations to the attention of the Government at the time. During the time period, the Virgin Islands Party Government was in control, led by Hon. Ralph T. O'Neal as Premier and Minister of Finance. The department falls under the purview of the Finance Ministry.
"My challenge was that when such matters were brought to the Ministry, they seemed to have been ignored and some persons were still allowed to carry on business as usual, as they were then approved and no further actions were taken to address the issue. I am not quite sure what kind of message that may have sent, as it may have encouraged some employees to undermine the work and progress of the department," George stated in the report.
George noted that as a result of the matters not being addressed, the department was met with several complaints which came under investigation by the Complaints Commissioner and subsequently led to a full investigation of the department and its operational functions.
According to George, because of the lack of understanding and support from the Ministry, the department became and still remains restricted and unable to function in the manner it should.
"Decisions were and are still being made due to personal preferences and on the basis of hearsay, without the proper guidance and communication. It then leaves room for speculation and quandary, which lends to a huge disconnect in the relationship of the Minister responsible, Ministry and department," George pointed out.
Other issues affecting the department relate to the lack of an adequate IT database, budgetary and human resource constraints.
On staffing, the report stated that officers who have occupied various positions for more than 15 to 20 years have claimed ownership to the posts and are unable to adjust to changes with regards new processes and systems implementation.
Additionally, George noted that there had been a very relaxed culture where officers would come and go whenever and wherever they want and were never held accountable or liable for such behavior.
"Therefore as we sought to change such culture and implement a system of behavior as per General Orders, we were met with great resistance, which has now taken on a face of outright rebellion on the part of some senior officers," George stated.
The department's 2010 and 2011 reports were tabled in the House of Assembly by Premier and Minister for Finance, Dr. D. Orlando Smith on Tuesday, October 9.