Hon. Dr. Kedrick Pickering, Deputy Premier and Minister for Labour and Natural Resources.
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
Acting Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, Hon. Dr. Kedrick Pickering has opted not to address the controversial report from Complaints Commissioner, Mr. Elton Georges regarding applications to reclaim seabed at Sea Cows Bay, which raised questions about a planned habour development.
The Acting Premier was asked about the report by a caller during the National Democratic Party (NDP) radio program last evening, September 17.
Following the call, host of the program, Eileene Parsons asked the Acting Premier if he wanted to get into "this tempest in a teapot", but he responded, "Not at all Miss P". Ms. Parsons then asked, "Not tonight?" However, the Acting Premier maintained, "Not at all".
Minister Pickering then explained that the role of the Complaints Commissioner is to investigate complaints where persons feel they have not gotten a proper response from the individuals who work within the system of Government.
"The Complaints Commissioner is a constitutionally appointed position. He investigates complaints from the public against the Government; basically, that's what his role is. There is a process and a protocol that he follows and he has the constitutional right after he has done a report...once it is laid before the House, it becomes a public document...it is part and parcel of a democratic society to ensure that there are cheks and balances in the way Government functions," Minister Pickering stated.
For over a decade, some residents of Sea Cows Bay have been awaiting permission to reclaim an area of the seabed adjacent to their property, but agencies have cited the confusion over a Sea Cows Bay Development Plan as one of the reasons for the delay.
A Special Report by Complaints Commissioner Elton Georges, tabled in the House of Assembly last week found the entire situation unacceptable and called on the Government to apologize to the applicants and offer compensation for the protracted delay.
The report noted that Sea Cows Bay sits in the Third District and the Representative for the District, Hon. Julian Fraser had politically, extremely strong personal interest in bringing into being an extensive habour development project.
"In his drive to achieve this goal, he bypassed and was allowed to bypass the established system for carrying out public business," Georges stated.
He pointed out that the system is based on the principle that the Minister, having listened to advice and consulting Cabinet, if required, decides what is to be done.
Photo Credit: Clifton Skelton/BVI Platinum News
According to Georges, the Minister is then expected to communicate the instructions to the Permanent Secretary, who sees to their execution within the authorized legal and financial frameworks and accounts to the Minister accordingly.
"Former Permanent Secretaries recall that in relation to the Sea Cows Bay reclamation; however, the Minister personally assumed what was normally the Ministry officials' task. For example, he personally dealt with the firm in commissioning the Smith Arneborg Architects Planning concept and was clearly perceived by officers as having personal charge of producing a Sea Cows Bay Development Plan. Civil Servants backed off because this was considered 'the Minister's baby', as it were," Georges stated.
Georges' report stated that this could only happen because the Governor in Council enabled it and the Permanent Secretaries abandoned their responsibilities.
Georges found that the issues with the development plan should not have prevented Government from handling the application made by the private citizens.
Parsons indicated that the Third District Representative has seen the report because he has responded and he has said that the Complaints Commissioner doesn't have a clue what he is talking about.