#GrandTurk, Turks and Caicos Islands – April 16, 2018 – The Premier of the TCI not only disagrees with the comment, by the Governor, that the UK is not micro-managing public money but explained that systems constitutionally entrenched to govern spending, dramatically slow down the pace for funds to be released on public projects.
“What the Governor has not said is that the UK has not engaged in micro-managing at its highest levels, but the Governor is involved in every process here and controls – a meaning of micro-managing – through Cabinet all decisions with the need for consensus, complete agreement of seven elected members and three un-elected members for anything to move forward.”
Premier Sharlene Robinson explained that it was reaction to a Magnetic Media article posted about the Governor’s comments from a press breakfast meeting which elicited her statement in defence of her administration. During the National Address on Monday over Radio Turks and Caicos, the country leader gave examples of how exhaustive – our word, not hers – is the process for projects.
“The Supplementary approved in February took over a month to secure. This was necessary because the constitution does not allow TCIG to run a deficit budget without its approval. The Supplementary which was debated by the House was a reduction Supplementary, as we could not spend as usual due to our fallen revenues. The House of Assembly had to approve this and following the storms, the projects agreed in March 2017 had shifted in priority and headlining for this revised priority was school repairs and NHIB support.”
The Premier continued with acknowledgement of comments from the PNP Opposition that the monies for hurricane recovery clean up was late. In the address, Premier Robinson agreed that it was late in the budget year but added that her team felt it the most proactive move given the system.
“As it was the end of the year much more could not be achieved under the procurement process which required six weeks for invitation to tenders and following approvals for business cases and even after, tenders or bids are received there was an evaluation stage that has to be undertaken.” Add to this it was exposed that in the space of 16-months of her administration, the UK has been asked three times by Premier Robinson to take over the hefty $10m per year SIPT bill. The Special Investigation trial was instituted under the British since 2009 and has been reported to have significantly fattened the coffers of attorneys working the expensive case against former country leaders including ex-Premier and former PNP Leader, Michael Misick.
“What the Governor has not said is that on three separate occasions: twice to London and more recently directly to him, I have had the need to raise the high and continuing annual costs of $9.1m to cover SIPT costs with $5m for legal aid and $4m for SIPT’s Team. TCIG would be able to do much more if we had access to this near $10m annually and I have suggested to the UK that should the UK assume these responsibilities and if done, the TCIG would be able to address areas of its interests, the Governors interests and critical areas also identified by the locally elected government.”
Last Thursday the Governor told media that the UK has released much of its hooks when it comes to spending since the nullification of the Chief Financial Officer. HE Dr. John Freeman said the British FCO would have understood even a deficit budget given the extremities brought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last September. But the Premier said her Government has its reasons for not rushing to a Deficit Budget; being chiefly focused, she noted, on keeping the British involvement in TCI money matters at bay.
“Last year the Budget for the first time since the new stringent financial regulations did not have to be approved by the UK as in previous years. Any reserves/savings below the agreed cash level would see the UK having to approve the FSPS and the detailed Budget. What the Governor has not said is that there has been a call by his Office as to areas he wish to have funded and have already stated that the Budget can be difficult to agree even if our cash levels remain as is and there remains no need to submit the detailed Budget to the UK for scrutiny and approvals. He is still very much in the process and can, as with any decision of Cabinet, hinder or halt any process until he himself in full agreement.”
With both country leaders now on the record about TCIG money and how it flows, the issues which caused the questions and stinging commentaries to erupt remain unresolved and vexing to thousands of people.
Money, which is healthily in abundance in the Turks and Caicos public purse is still being spent too slowly or not at all as it relates to rebounding from the hurricanes, taking care of public and private relationships and enhancing critical public infrastructure.
However, to conclude her address to the Nation, Premier Hon. Sharlene Robinson expressed a strong final point and challenge to His Excellency: “The UK is involved every stage locally by the Governor’s role and so to say there is no micromanaging or local control is certainly incorrect. The current Governor, as many know nationally is involved at all levels even where neither of his predecessors has been under elected Government. Hence the perception out there that he is running the country. This is a perception he must feel compelled to correct by actions.”