What is the reality about SIPT Funding?

16 December 2011                                                          

Statement from Chairman Lillian Misick on SIPT costs and funding

Pursuant to my statement during Tuesday’s session of the Consultative Forum I met with the Governor and CFO late yesterday afternoon (15 December) to discuss the costs of and funding for the SIPT and Civil Recovery Programme.

Some of you will have already read the statement His Excellency Governor Ric Todd issued on Wednesday addressing these matters.

In short, he stated that:

1.       Combined costs of the SIPT and Civil Recovery Programme will be approximately $11 million each year;

2.       Both are expected to run for three years;

3.       The total costs (of approximately $33 million) have been abated by a $10 million payment by the UK government; and

4.       The remaining costs (of approximately $23 million) will be paid out of proceeds from the Civil Recovery Programme.

Yet I was constrained to explain to the Governor that, although he adequately laid out the costs and identified what he believes is a potential source of funding, he did not address the cause of the confusion that prevailed in the Forum on Tuesday, or cite what I believe should be the actual source of funding for the SIPT and Civil Recovery Programme.

In short, the cause of this confusion stems from the fact that:

1.       Sir Robin Auld, who headed the Commission of Inquiry that lead to the creation of the SIPT and Civil Recovery Programme,  and Helen Garlick, who heads the SIPT, both expressed grave concern that, if the TCIG were made responsible, the budgeted costs of SIPT would amount to more than 10% of the TCIG’s budget.

Specifically, Ms Garlick warned in November 2009 that this raised the:

“…real prospect that there will be months when the SIPT’s expenses and salaries will be met, whilst [those of] TCIG government servants […] will not. [I]n my view this is wrong in principle [and] it is hardly likely to help us to win and maintain essential public support “;

2.       Ms Garlick persisted in March 2010, even after the UK abatement the Governor referenced in his statement, that:

“I continue to register my extreme concern at the financial position and at the consequences of the fact that, against our wishes, the SIPT is now a major burden upon the budget of the TCIG”; 

3.       The UK Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) echoed Garlick’s concern in its March 2010 report as follow:

“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… 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”; and

4.       Foreign Secretary William Hague proffered in his March 2011 Ministerial statement that all Overseas Territories should fund their own investigations and prosecutions. But he demurred, instructively, by adding that “this is an exceptional case”, and then echoed the FAC’s concern as follows:

“Most importantly, and mindful of the recommendations of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I have approved a discretionary grant of £6.6m to the Turks and Caicos Islands Government to reimburse the costs incurred in the past year pursuing corruption and violent crime. This is for the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team; related civil recovery work; and the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police. My officials have coordinated this carefully with DFID’s work to underpin the Territory’s public finances… Territories should not look to the UK to fund criminal investigations or prosecutions that they are reluctant to pursue themselves. But the burden in this case has been exceptional”.

I explained to the Governor that a fair reading of this Ministerial statement alone could (and did) lead our people to infer that Mr Hague was in fact making an exception for UK funding in our case. Moreover, that, recognizing the UK’s own responsibility for creating the need for the SIPT and Civil Recovery Programme, he intended this exception to last for the full term of their work, not just for one year as the Governor seems to have inferred.

That said, I believe it is incumbent upon UK government officials to reconcile what appears to be confusion within their ranks in this regard. And in so doing, I urge them to heed the admonition of the FAC; i.e., “that the UK Government [must as a matter of generally accepted principle] fully fund the work of the SIPT”.

Which of course means that the UK should pay not with recovered funds it allowed to be ostentatiously misappropriated from our treasury, but with funds from its own treasury. And the members of the Forum and I shall be vigilant in entreating the UK Government to do just that.

Lillian Misick

Chairman TCI Consultative Forum

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