Turks and Caicos Islands Commission of Inquiry 2008-2009
Report into possible corruption or other serious dishonesty in relation to past and present elected members of the Legislature.
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There is a high probability of systemic corruption in government and the legislature and among public officers in the Turks & Caicos Islands in recent years. It appears, in the main, to have consisted of bribery by overseas developers and other investors of Ministers and/or public officers, so as to secure Crown Land on favourable terms, coupled with government approval for its commercial development. Breach and/or by abuse of the Government’s Belongers’ Empowerment and Crown Land Policies appear to be frequent mechanisms of, and aids to, such transactions.
Over the same period there has been serious deterioration ‐ from an already low level ‐ in the Territory’s systems of governance and public financial management and control.
This deterioration has been accompanied by extravagant and ill‐judged commitments by those in public office, primarily Ministers, in public expenditure and in their private expenditure at public expense. There has also been deterioration in the Territory’s financial condition and, more recently, accumulating budget deficits and a near collapse of its financial reserves, giving it difficulty on occasion in paying its bills as they have fallen due.
Among the contributors to this moral, governmental and financial decline have been: 1) the potential and encouragement in the system of governance for abuse of public office, concealment of conflicts of interest at all levels of public life, and consequent venality; 2) the power of politics in the mix of public decision‐making and commercial activity, and willingness of overseas developers and other investors to exploit that power for their own purposes; 3) vulnerability of the majority of the Territory’s long‐term residents, owing to the precariousness of their permission to live and work here, and to whom Belongership and, with it, the right to vote are denied; and 4) lack of effective constitutional checks and balances in the system of governance to protect the public
There is also much scope in the wide discretionary powers accorded to Ministers by the 2006 Constitution, and/or arrogated by them, for abuse by them of their public office, inefficient governance and poor public financial management and control, particularly in the grant or withholding of Crown Land and permission to develop it and other investment opportunities, and in the exaction or waiver of government taxes and other dues.
Pursuant to the Commission’s first Term of Reference, I find that there is information of possible corruption and/or other serious dishonesty, including misfeasance in public office, in relation to five present elected Members of the House of Assembly, all of whom until recently were Members of the Cabinet, namely, the Hons Michael Misick, Floyd Hall, McAllister Hanchell, Jeffrey Hall and Lillian Boyce. I have recommended criminal investigation by the police or others with a view to prosecutions, if so advised, in relation to such possible offences in respect of matters identified and described in Chapter 4, and summarised in Chapter 6, of this Report.
Pursuant to the Commission’s second Term of Reference, I find that there are systemic weaknesses In legislation, regulation and public administration in the Territory, in respect of which I have made recommendations, largely confirming those made in my Interim Report of 28th February 2009.
Those recommendations include: 1) partial suspension of the 2006 Constitution and Interim Direct Rule from Westminster acting through the Governor; 2) provision for special criminal process and civil recovery of assets arising out of any criminal or other investigations prompted by this Report, including trial by judge alone and partial reversal of the burden of proof; 3) improvement of standards of integrity in public life; 4) statutory reform of the system for administration and disposal of Crown Land in the form of a Crown Land Ordinance (already partly in draft), so as to remove or severely reduce the scope for corruption and loss without appropriate return of the Territory’s most valuable asset; 5) on return of the Territory to ministerial government, amendment of the 2006 Constitution or, with a view to a new Constitution, reform of the Franchise and removal or reduction of constitutional imbalances and weaknesses; and 6) review, in consultation with the TCI Bar Association, of The Legal Profession Ordinance.