|Lack of oversight in Turks and Caicos spotlighted at UN
|Published on July 21, 2012
By Caribbean News Now contributor
NEW YORK, USA — The United Nations Committee of 24 held hearings late last month dealing with issues affecting dependent territories that are controlled by colonial powers including Britain and the USA, the majority of these being island territories that are isolated from their mother countries.
Representing the situation in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) was Alpha Gibbs. He and an associate, Ben Roberts, also a native TC Islander who lives, as does Gibbs, in the US, had approached the United Nations on behalf of the TCI before.
The Gibbs UN presentation spoke at length about the lack of oversight on the part of previous British governors. This would have included Governor Posten (now deceased) Governor Tauwhare, and possibly Governor Wetherell. These three governors held office during the period when the Progressive National Party (PNP) was in power.
Posten, Tauwhare and Wetherell were all appointed by Britain’s Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) during the British Labour Party’s term of office under prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown
The last Labour government appointed minister with responsibility for Britain’s overseas territories was Chris Bryant but possibly the best known minister of this era was Meg Munn, who visited the TCI in early 2008 and met with then governor Tauwhare and premier Michael Misick. Coming out of that meeting, Munn famously told the media that there was no evidence of serious corruption. This was almost immediately disputed by a mission from the British Foreign Affairs Committee. Munn was soon dismissed and Tauwhare was refused a one year extension of his appointment. He left in late June 2008, just 90 days later.
The Gibbs presentation at the United Nations also chided the British interim administration, which has been running the affairs of the TCI since August 2009 and which has failed adequately to resolve the economic issues remaining in the wake of the period Gibbs says oversight was missing. Since the August 2009 imposition of direct rule by Britain, a balanced budget has not been achieved and the private sector economy of the TCI has contracted significantly. However, tourism has increased and, through many newly imposed taxes and raised fees, the government has increased its income.
The interim administration, while due to hand over the reins of government to an elected government in November of this year, has announced that they will continue to control the finances of the TCI via a British-appointed financial officer. The most recent proclamation on this issue is that finances will not be handed over to local government until a $260 million loan guarantee by Britain has been discharged.
This loan, as well as the new and increased taxes and fees, have assisted in the pay-down of hundreds of millions in debts left by the previous elected government and the continuing deficit budgets of the interim government. The loan was guaranteed by Britain and put in place to avoid a TCI bankruptcy.