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Failure to complete more than half of capital projects; ‘That’s on us’ – Saunders

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By Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer

 

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 19, 2023 – The Government not only failed to deliver on promised capital projects despite historic budgeted expenditure in the last financial year (2022/23), but compared to previous years with much lower budgets they are barely above average.  The revelation came from E Jay Saunders, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister in the first day of budget debates, Tuesday May 16th.

“The [last] four administrations, The interim Administration, Hon Dr. Rufus Ewing’s Administration, Hon. Sharlene Cartwright Robinson’s Administration, and our current administration spent an average of $16.8 million per year on capital projects.”

Saunders admitted that the $18.2 million that the Government managed to spend last fiscal year, while more than $16 million, was not up to target.

“It made us averse to budget (lower than budget) by a staggering 67 percent.  That is on us. We budgeted $55.8 million for capital projects; we could only deliver 18.2,” he said.

Capital Projects can be described as those projects that improve overall quality of life in a tangible way, usually via upgrades to infrastructure, examples include recreational parks, upgrades to schools and more.

Projects that the Government managed to complete included: IT command and control systems for all Islands; upgrades to water storage and distribution facilities; lights installed in Grand Turk; new blocks for several schools; upgrades to the governor’s residence; repairs to police stations and more.

Even so, only 18 million of the budgeted $55.8 million that should have been spent on improving the lives and welfare of residents across the Turks and Caicos Islands was expended.  Saunders acknowledged that this, while technically better than average, is insufficient and committed to fixing the gap between budgeting and delivering.

“It is time to reevaluate the capital projects process from concept to delivery to enhance efficiency while maintaining the necessary checks and balances,” he said.

It’s a disheartening announcement for islanders once again as they remain without key infrastructure for play, work, and safety.  Aside from the slowed infrastructural development of the country and residents being deprived of their promised parks, school upgrades, road upgrades, and more; another major concern when capital projects remain undelivered, is what happens to the money that should have been used for them.

Saunders explained that to improve efficiency in 2022, the Government amended certain rules governing capital projects allowing ‘the entire appropriations development fund to be committed for a period of 2 financial years’.  It gave projects the needed funding whether they were started or not, restricting that money for use on those projects only.  With the financial year over and a chunk of those projects not yet started it meant:

“Consequently we would have started this financial year with $37.6 million of our cash on hand restricted due to capital projects that had not yet started.”

With a promise already made to the UK not to let their unrestricted funds fall below what was needed to run the country for 90 days (which would certainly have happened with $37 million tied up), TCIG had to allow the funding to expire with the financial year.

The bungled job of clearing Public Works before planning projects, means Public Infrastructure plans will have to be resubmitted to the House requiring a duplication of work further slowing the pace of projects in the country.

The Government has budgeted $64.4 million for Capital projects this (2023/24) financial year.

Government

FINALISATION OF CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM PROPOSALS

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Turks and Caicos

 

  1. Today Her Excellency the Governor convened a meeting with the Honourable Premier, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Attorney General, Sir Jeffrey Jowell KC and the FCDO’s Deputy Director Adam Pile to finalise the package of constitutional reform so it may be submitted to the Privy Council in July. Also in attendance was Her Excellency the Deputy Governor.
  2. The bipartisan constitutional talks with the UK Government in Grand Turk (October 2023) agreed to move to a fully elected House of Assembly*, with four additional elected members replacing the members appointed by the Governor, Premier and Leader of the Opposition. In the wider package of constitutional reform, all other major issues have been agreed in further meetings and correspondence, bar the timing of a transition to a fully elected House of Assembly*.

Scope of work of the Electoral District Boundary Commission

  1. The Electoral District Boundary Commission was stood up in February to review in the first instance the boundaries of the electoral districts into which the islands are divided in line with s.61 of the Constitution. The Governor, in line with the agreement of the UK Government, has asked that they then assess options for the composition of the four additional elected seats. This work will need to be put out to public consultation and submitted to the House of Assembly, after which further work will be required to implement the approved changes.
  2. In order to deliver constitutional reform for the Turks and Caicos Islands this summer, the agreed package of reforms now need to be submitted to the UK Government so it may be made by His Majesty The King in the Privy Council in July.

Transition to an all-elected House of Assembly*

  1. Given this timing, it was noted that there are two options for the transition to an all-elected House of Assembly*:
  1. A transitionary phase that provides for an all-elected House of Assembly* at the forthcoming election with four additional ‘all island’ candidates for the next term, following which the further work of the Electoral District Boundary Commission will inform the composition of the four additional seats going forward; or
  2. Retain the status quo of four appointed members at the forthcoming election and wait to move to an all-elected House* until the subsequent election, following the work of the Electoral District Boundary Commission which will inform the composition of the four additional seats.
  1. Agreement was not reached at the meeting on which option to pursue.
  1. The Honourable Premier continues in his view that the transition to an all-elected House* should take place at the forthcoming election with the four additional elected seats contested on an ‘all island’ basis. This would be a transitionary phase, until the subsequent election where the work of the Electoral District Boundary Commission will inform what additional constituencies may be implemented.
  2. The Honourable Leader of the Opposition has confirmed his view that the transition to an all-elected House of Assembly* should not take place at the forthcoming election, that the status quo should be retained with four appointed members; and the move to an all-elected House of Assembly should only take place at the subsequent election, where the work of the Electoral District Boundary Commission will inform what additional constituencies may be implemented.
  1. In light of the need to provide a clear position to the UK Government, a motion will be tabled for debate in the House of Assembly to allow a full debate on when a fully elected legislature should be introduced.
  • other than the Attorney General

 

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Government

Government Prepares to roll out Financial Assistance Programme (FAP) for Senior Citizens

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#TurksandCaicos, May 31, 2024 – The Office of the Premier and Public Policy and the Ministry of Finance, Investment and Trade wants to advise the general public that plans for the Financial Assistance Programme (FAP), aimed at supporting the elderly population within our society are underway. $3.1 million in funding was approved in the current Budget Year 2024/2025

The Financial Assistance Programme, a cornerstone initiative of the Government, is a commitment to augment the social welfare of the aged in the TCI.   It is being carefully crafted to support elderly citizens who may be facing financial hardships.

The Government is fully committed to ensuring the smooth implementation of the Financial Assistance Programme as promised; and to meet the originally proposed deadline for payment of the benefit in July 2024 posed for eligible individuals.  The payment, when distributed will be retroactive to 1 April 2024.

The Government reaffirms its dedication to fostering a society that cares for its elderly population and provides them with the assistance and resources necessary to build stronger communities where everyone can not only survive but thrive.

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TCI GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES JUDICIAL APPOINTMENT

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#TurksandCaicos, May 21, 2024 – Ms. Patricia Arana has been sworn in on13 May 2024 as Resident Magistrate, Grand Turk.  She first joined the Judiciary of the Turks and Caicos Islands as Registrar of the Magistrate’s Court in April 2022.

Prior to taking up the position of Registrar of the Magistrate’s Court, she was the Deputy Registrar General at the Supreme Court of her native Belize in Belize City. She started her judicial career as a Magistrate in 2010 and was promoted to the position of Senior Magistrate in 2015. As Senior Magistrate, she worked in several districts in Belize, and acted as Chief Magistrate on several occasions.  She was also within that period, seconded for two years as Legal Counsel to the Financial Intelligence Unit of Belize.

Ms. Arana is a graduate of the University of the West Indies where she obtained a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) Degree, and a graduate of the Norman Manley Law School, Jamaica, where she obtained her Legal Education Certificate. There she distinguished herself when she received the H.H. Dunn Memorial Prize for Legal Drafting and Interpretation.

Regionally, Ms. Arana currently serves as an Executive Member of the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers (CAJO) on behalf of the Judiciary of the Turks and Caicos Islands. She is also an active member of the Caribbean Association of Women Judges (CAWJ), and the National Garifuna Council (NGC) Orange Walk Branch.

In the Turks and Caicos Islands, Ms. Arana has since her appointment in 2022, served in various capacities: ADR Administrator and lately a member of the Mediation Committee, a member of the Breach Process Rules Committee, Justice of the Peace Vetting Panel, Justice of the Peace Disciplinary Panel, and Election Adjudicator.

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