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TCI: Independent House member Connolly says PDM Government too inexperienced to manage the country

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File Photo - Hon Josephine Connolly, All Island Member

#Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos – July 30, 2018 – Money was not the problem for the PDM Administration; it was a lack of execution according to Hon Josephine Connolly, which resulted in a long list of un-dones.

The All Island member, who broke off from the PDM in January and is now counted as an independent Member of the House of Assembly, blasted the performance of the Premier and Finance Minister, Hon Sharlene Robinson in the last fiscal year.

“The money was there, Mr Speaker, it simply was not spent. Section 5 of the booklet gives a long sorry list of desperately needed capital projects that have not been started, not because there was no money, but because there was no execution. And, Mr Speaker, this was before the devastation of the two hurricanes.  

Connolly calls it under-spending and when questioned by Magnetic Media about what she believes is behind it, said: “I strongly believe that Our Ministers came into office without the experience of being involved with major capital projects. The procurement process is complicated and it requires skill and perseverance to ensure the capital projects start and get completed on time. What was needed, and is still needed, the ministers project managing the progress of all capital projects on a regular basis and working as a team to remove impediments. It requires leadership which so far has been sadly lacking.”

The sentiments are the general tone of all contributions by Connolly, who is vocally doubtful that the current government has what it takes to govern effectively.
To the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Connolly said, “I hope the Minister of Finance will be able to detail in her closing contribution the remedial actions she has taken within her government to ensure that the debacle of under spending in 2017/18 does not reoccur in 2018/19.”

The former PDM Minister of Education said in her contribution that, “I think, Mr Speaker, the people of this country were expecting a year when this government drives development and pushes up revenues for the benefit of all. The budget as presented by the Minister of Finance portrays a lack of confidence in her ability to drive that business growth.”


Hon Connolly, a businesswoman by profession said ignorance of best practices resulted in heftier costs to the public for the National Health Insurance Board and pointed to what she believes is a missed opportunity by the Robinson-led government.

“One looks after are health and one our comfort in old age. They are significant organizations and they have come in for some criticism in the January 2018 report on statutory bodies.
It is not clear to me Mr Speaker that any of the significant recommendations of that report have been accepted or included in this budget. For instance the recommendation that the administration of the NHIB should be merged with the NIB has been ignored.

The obvious savings that would have been made had this recommendation been followed in terms of office rental, investment in computer systems and combining the best practices are so obvious that I think that the House would be interested as to why these savings have been ignored by the Minister of Finance.

The failures of not using best practice are there for all to see. Last year Mr Speaker the NHIB was budgeted to receive from TCIG $23M… it actually needed $33M. Almost 50% higher than the budgeted amount. I was a little surprised that the appropriations committee did not ask the question “How can you be wrong by $11M last year and how do you know you are right this year?”

Connolly disagrees with the lack of scrutiny and does not support just upping spending for the Health Insurance Board.

“May I respectfully suggest that if the Minister of Finance wishes to get a handle on the Finances of the NHIB that they speed up the appointment of a CFO. I understand that the previous CFO left in June 2017 and 8 months later in February the published summary of the cabinet meeting referenced “progress on recruiting a CFO for NHIB”. Well one would hope that after 8 months some progress had been made!

I am not sure Mr Speaker why anyone is surprised at massive over budget of expenditure if the people meant to monitor the expenditure are not in place. Perhaps Mr Speaker the reason for the vacancy is that the salary outlined in the budget is not enough to attract the right candidate. The CFO will be responsible for a budget of over $68M. We need an experienced financial director with enough credibility to advise the board, introduce systems and control the expenditure in a fair and equitable manner. That expertise does not come cheap.”

The fifth all island member said the Appropriations Committee unearthed that there are 50 audit reports of Statutory Bodies outstanding; and that the NHIP had turned in no audit for three years.

Hon. Josephine Connolly blamed the Government for not ensuring accountability.

“It would be nice if the self-funding statutory bodies were up to date Mr Speaker, but the last published audited accounts on the NIB web-site is for the year ending March 31, 2013 , that is five years ago!

This is our pension money we have a right to know that our money is safe and secure and the NIB have an obligation to comply with the law.

The responsibility for the completion of these audits is the National Audit Office I appreciate that the Minister of Finance does not have power to direct the audit office as identified in section 52 of the Finance and Audit Ordinance. However the failure of the audit function cannot continue….. everyone has to be held to account….…. even the national Audit Office.”

Connolly also drew attention to the Center for Entrepreneurial Development, the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police and the Ministry of Education among other areas of concern.

Most of the comments were made by Hon. Josephine Connolly during the 2018 Budget Debate in Grand Turk July 10-13, 2018.

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Education

Education Minister announces Platinum Partnerships for internet and tablet program amidst COVID surge

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By Shaniek Smith

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – Schools did not resume in person learning in the Turks and Caicos on January 4, instead it was back to virtual classes for 7,400 children in the British overseas territory due to an omicron-driven surge in Covid-19 infections.

It was announced on the New Year’s Day holiday for TCI, January 3 in a press conference hosted by Rachel Taylor, the Minister of Education, and attended by Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health and supported by Premier Washington Misick, who was also at the live event.

In a promised update, parents got the not-so-good-news, virtual classes would resume at least until the end of January due to the surge and staff shortages being experienced.  Turks and Caicos, up to Thursday January 14 had over 800 active cases, five new deaths and a 600 per cent increase in hospitalisations.  The Minister said the decision was in the interest of safety.

The Minister also promised to get devices and internet to students in order for them to participate in learning during this virtual-only season.  The press conference on January 13, welcomed partners Flow, Digicel and the Pine Cay Project.

In her address, chair of the Pine Cay Project, Marie Landel, said that an urgent call from Dr. Carlton Mills, a member of their board of trustees revealed that about 750 students would be without internet connection and devices.

The Pine Cay Project responded to that information and has agreed to pay for internet for 30 days students, with its partner in the initiative, DigicelTCI.  It is an $18,000 investment in education continuity for hundreds of children.

“We had strong discussions on what we should do with the money that we collect every year, so yesterday we agreed to the funding in emergency situation of 300 internet connections and devices that are going to help the students in need, and we’re very proud to be able to act quickly,” Landel expressed.

Additionally, the Marketing Manager at Digicel TCI, Mr Drexler Smith, said Digicel has partnered with the Ministry of Education to provide about 1,000 tablets for public schools. Smith added that 75 MiFi devices valued at 7,000 dollars were provided; they come with free data services for up to three months for students in need.

Digicel has also created a special education plan for e-learning with specific zero-rated sites and applications. The company partnered with Pine Cay and other private entities in this regard. Various schools and educational facilities in South Caicos, Five Cays, and Providenciales have benefitted from laptops, data plans, MiFi’s, and e-learning kits.

Marketing Executive Flow TCI, Darron Hilaire, also shared the contributions Flow made to the education sector since the pandemic.

“Within the last three years, Flow TCI, through our charitable foundation, would have donated $130,000 worth of ICT equipment to 2 schools respectively in Grand Turk and in Providenciales for the outfitting of the new computer labs to help facilitate the ministry’s vision to foster an efficient e-learning environment for students,” he said.

Mr. Hilaire added that within the first year of the pandemic, Flow responded to requests from the Ministry to increase the bandwidth to public schools in the TCI. Hilaire said Flow home internet speed doubles automatically at no cost to its customers in early July.

He said that within the last 60 days, Flow TCI announced a recent donation of $25,000 dollars to two schools in North Caicos and one in Providenciales. The donation was in aid of increasing connectivity and infrastructural upgrades.

“As we come to the end of this phase of the project, our objective is to look at doing the same for other schools in the second phase of the projects to further arm our schools with the access to technology to provide the best quality education to students,” Hilaire added.

Amanyara Resort, not present at the press event, was said to be working on additional laptops for hundreds of children despite having already donated to several schools in Providenciales.

Minister Rachel Taylor and her team, including Eugene Grant, ICT Education Officer at the Ministry of Education and Mark Garland, Deputy Director of Education thanked the donors; they were labelled Platinum Partners by the Minister.

 

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Health

Government apologizes to Churches for NEW Covid-19 Testing rule

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#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – The TCI Government is apologizing for including the Church in a new raft of restrictions which mandates unvaccinated congregants be tested in order to be allowed to attend church events however, there is no change in the rule.  The rule is now delayed start for another two weeks following an announcement issued by the Ministry of Health on Thursday evening.

The apology came from Premier Washington Misick in a statement late Wednesday, where he apologized for bunching the church in with restaurants, lounges, bars and discotheques which also have to follow the regulation.

Church pastors speaking with Magnetic Media expressed shock at the announcement which was revealed, on Tuesday, as a cabinet approved decision which also includes mandatory testing for the unvaccinated to attend funerals.

While there has been no official statement from the Turks and Caicos Islands Christian Council or the Pastors Fraternity it was clear that some of the church community seemed prepared to stand firmly against the measure.

The Premier has promised that there will be consultation going forward; beckoning to Churches to comply with the temporary rule which he said would help to curb the latest surge of COVID-19 cases.

 

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Health

Cruising & Caring for Health and Wealth

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – As the cruising industry in Grand Turk continues to get back into full swing with an anticipated four cruises or more per week, Turks and Caicos Islanders who work in the industry will again be interacting with thousands of foreign nationals on a weekly basis.

Normally this would be a cause for celebration and it is, but with the world in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and especially in light of the newest variant, the rules have changed.

As researchers find more information in regards to Omicron it is becoming increasingly clear that while the variant may be slightly milder than others its transmissibility is a major treat to populations, economies and health systems everywhere.

The following are tips that will help balance TCI tourism workers’ income and their safety, or as government often puts it, “lives and livelihoods”.

 

Prior Preparation.

Masks have become a part of life since the beginning of the pandemic, some wear them for safety, others because they are mandated. Nearly all of us have experienced that ‘oh no’ moment when we realize we’ve left our mask behind, it’s a funny anecdote to represent our new normal in theory.

In reality it can be dangerous, life threatening even, to be without protective measures especially for vendors who interact with international visitors all day long.

This means prior preparation is key. Outfit your stall with masks and the recommended cleaning agents, have extras on hand so you never get caught without. If possible put the required distance between your own stall and your neighbors. If possible create dividers for yourself and tourists that will allow you to interact safely. Place reminders in the form of signs around your stall so guests are not tempted to flout safety measures.

 

In the Moment

Cruise days can be hectic, there are so many people and so little time but as you rush to make your sales or braid hair it is important to keep safety protocols in mind.

Always maintain social distancing between yourself and guests, this is especially important in high volume situations like this as guests can be asymptomatic.

If you operate a business that will not allow you to do so e.g. hair braiding, keep your mask on at all times and insist that your guests do so as well.

Limit the amount of guests allowed in your space at once.

Establish rigorous and frequent cleaning protocols, as guests move around in their excitement they may forget to sanitize. Clean surfaces regularly with the recommended products to prevent lingering traces of anything dangerous.

 

Aftercare

When guests have departed and it’s time to close up shop don’t skip any steps that could undo a successful day of safe practices.

Wash your money, it may seem strange but bills are made from durable paper that is not susceptible to tearing or water-wear. Washing your bills and coins gently will not hurt them but will protect you from any lingering viruses. Clean regularly touched areas and items. Get tested regularly, that way if you do get infected you will be in the know early. If you feel ill, immediately self-isolate and test to confirm if you have COVID or not. Deep clean your stall regularly, disinfecting as many areas as you can.

Covid-19 has forced us into a new normal but Turks and Caicos Islanders are resilient, it is possible to balance safety and profit, remember to wash your hands and obey all the protocols so the TCI can come out of this Pandemic with as little losses as possible.

 

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