Turks and Caicos Islands - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents


Conclusions and recommendations



Background

1.  We welcome the actions that the Government has taken to address the serious concerns we expressed in 2008 about alleged corruption in the Turks and Caicos Islands. These actions include the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry, the subsequent suspension of parts of the TCI Constitution, and the creation of a Special Investigation and Prosecution Team (SIPT). However, in recent months significant concerns about the speed and effectiveness of the Government's plans to reform and "clean up" the political system in TCI have been brought to our attention. This brief Report focuses specifically on those concerns. (Paragraph 13)

2.  Although this Report deals specifically with issues relating to TCI, a number of concerns have been brought to our attention in relation to allegations of corruption and poor governance in other Overseas Territories—for example, in Anguilla. We recommend that the Government should supply us with a memorandum setting out in detail what support is provided by the UK Government to each of the individual Territory governments to assist them in tackling corruption and maintaining standards of good governance. In the event that it is not possible to supply this information to us before the dissolution of the present Parliament, we recommend that the Government should make it available to our successor Committee in the next Parliament when it begins its work. (Paragraph 14)

Issues of concern

Funding of the TCI Special Investigation and Prosecution Team (SIPT)

3.  We recommend that, should the need be identified, close protection should be provided to the Special Prosecutor and the members of her team, and that the cost of this protection should be wholly met by the UK Government. (Paragraph 30)

4.  We conclude that the failure of the Government to put in place adequate funding arrangements for the work of the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team (SIPT) is of grave concern. This has prevented the Special Prosecutor from beginning in earnest the work of fully investigating the allegations raised during the 2008-09 Commission of Inquiry. Twelve months have passed since Sir Robin Auld produced his interim report, and as yet no decisive action has been taken to proceed against those politicians and others suspected of serious corruption. We further conclude that, the longer this damaging delay continues, the greater the risk that the moves to eradicate corruption from public life in TCI may founder, not least by enabling some of the individuals potentially facing investigation to liquidate their assets and put funds beyond the reach of the authorities. There is also a real risk that the delay may lead to a perception that nothing is being done, thereby resulting in the loss of public confidence, and subsequently the co-operation of the residents of the TCI, both of which are essential in order to pursue successful prosecutions. (Paragraph 31)

5.  We conclude that there are, at present, inadequate safeguards to protect the funding of the SIPT post-2011. Given the inability to secure funding thus far, we are not persuaded by the assurances of the Foreign Secretary that adequate safeguards will be put into place to protect the funding in future. We fear that the Government is being naive in relation to the potential financial pressures likely to be faced by future governments in the TCI, and the capacity of wrongdoers on the TCI to impede and frustrate the SIPT's investigations. (Paragraph 32)

6.  We note the Government's argument that the UK taxpayer should not fund the SIPT, on the grounds that the former TCI Government was responsible for the present parlous economic state of the Islands, and therefore it is the Islanders who should pay to clean up the mess they have created. We conclude that this argument is flawed, for four reasons. First, on grounds of principle: it ignores the extent to which the UK Government was also culpable in allowing a culture of systemic corruption to develop in TCI unchecked, thereby neglecting its duty of responsible oversight of the Overseas Territories. Second, on grounds of pragmatism: if the funding of the SIPT has to be borne by the TCI Government, diverting resources which would otherwise be spent on healthcare, law and order, or public-sector salaries, it is likely that this will lead to an erosion of popular support for the reform process, which will be eagerly exploited by the opponents of reform. Third, we share the Special Prosecutor's concern that there is an important principle at stake as to who should fund the work of the SIPT. The UK Government, having intervened in the Turks and Caicos Islands, has a responsibility to follow through with the required financial commitment. Not to do so would be to risk the UK Government's credibility in its use of reserved powers. Fourth, it is unreasonable to expect the small population of the TCI to bear the financial burden, through debt or taxation, for funding the investigation and prosecution of corruption for which they were not responsible. We recommend that the UK Government fully fund the work of the SIPT or risk severely undermining its own credibility in its use of reserved powers, both in the TCI and in all the Overseas Territories. (Paragraph 33)

Sir Robin Auld's letter of 23 March 2010

7.  We conclude that Sir Robin Auld's comments in his letter to the Foreign Secretary of 23 March reinforce our own conclusions set out in this Report. We urge the Government to commit the resources necessary to ensure that the process of reform in the Turks and Caicos Islands does not unravel, at a great cost to the international reputation of the United Kingdom. (Paragraph 36)

Crime and security

8.  We recommend that the Government respond positively to the Governor's requests and fund the required number of additional British police officers for community policing and crime detection through the Department for International Development (DFID) budget. (Paragraph 39)

2011 and beyond

9.  We welcome the Governor's efforts to bring about political reform in TCI, and to increase the capacity of the Attorney General's Office and the capabilities of the Police Service, in order to make them fit for purpose. We recommend that urgent action be taken by the Governor, with the support of the UK Government, to set up a properly funded Integrity Commission, and to secure and refurbish safe and suitable court buildings for the trials expected to arise from the work of SIPT, as requested by the Special Prosecutor. We further recommend that the UK Government provide the capital and running costs of the Integrity Commission for an initial period of three years. (Paragraph 45)

10.  We conclude that the overriding aim of the current British administration of TCI must be to restore democratic self-government in the Territory as soon as the necessary work of purging its corrupt and dysfunctional political system has been completed and entrenched. However, we note the slow pace of the reform process to date, as well as the delay we have discussed earlier in launching the work of the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team. We therefore further conclude that there are solid reasons for regarding the Government's preferred July 2011 date for the end of direct rule as unrealistic. If elections proceed on this timetable, there is a real danger of a return to the status quo ante, and the possibility that politicians against whom serious allegations of corruption are pending could seek to return to power. In such circumstances, it is possible they might seek to use bribery and intimidation to engineer a return to office, and then use the many means at their disposal in office to roll back the reform process and undermine the work of the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team. While we welcome the steps being taken by the Governor to create new constitutional arrangements aimed at fostering probity and good practice, we are not convinced that these can be put unassailably in place within such a tight timescale. (Paragraph 46)

11.  We recommend that the Government take all reasonable and necessary steps to reassure the people of the TCI that a new constitution will not be put in place, nor elections held, until there is absolute confidence that the necessary reforms have been fully embedded. We further recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government set out clear criteria as to what must be achieved by way of these reforms before elections take place. (Paragraph 47)

12.  It is essential that the issues identified in our 2008 Report and by the Commission of Inquiry are addressed and resolved to secure the future well-being of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Despite the progress that has been made, the concerns we have raised in this Report suggest that TCI's future is still far from secure. We recommend that our successor Committee in the next Parliament continue to monitor developments in TCI and the Overseas Territories closely. (Paragraph 48)


 
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