Ewing demands inquiry into SIPT

Weekly News reporter
BY OLIVIA ROSE
PREMIER Rufus Ewing, in an attempt to "recover every cent of monies spent on the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team (SIPT),” is calling for an inquiry into the ‘unaccountable and endless’ expenditure of the ongoing trial.

This demand came at the time he blasted the British for reneging on the agreement to rescind the appointment of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) after the $260 million loan was paid off, an appointment he calls "a flagrant violation of the Turks and Caicos Islands’ democracy.”

The Premier`s strong views were expressed at the recently-held UK Overseas Territories Attorneys General symposium held in Providenciales recently.

He charged that the CFO has absolute authority over the public finances under the provisions of the CFO Ordinance.

Ewing said: "Through the CFO`s actions, and by exercising his authority, he has unilaterally appropriated funds whose expenditure were not sanctioned by the duly elected members of Cabinet.”

He pointed out that in several instances Cabinet opposed these appropriations, especially to the SIPT where they were deemed not to be in the best interest of the people of this country, but the decisions were later overruled.

Only recently Cabinet denied a request for additional legal aid funds made by the judiciary for (SIPT) corruption trials.

But the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) vetoed Cabinet’s decision and granted the $3 million dollars.

The Governor’s office told the Weekly News that the decision was made to ensure the continuation of good governance.

"The Minister for the Overseas Territories, Baroness Anelay, wrote to the Governor on 13 September instructing him under Section 3(4) of the TCI Chief Financial Officer Ordinance 2012 to direct the CFO to make the necessary arrangements for the budget allocation primarily for legal aid for the defendants in the trial as requested by the Chief Justice to be made available.”

According to the Governor`s Office the Minister’s decision was taken to ensure that the defence in the trial has access to the appropriate resources to which it is legally entitled so as not to compromise the compilation and presentation of its case.

"The Minister believes that this is essential for the continued good governance of TCI and the proper administration of justice.”

Since its beginning, civil recovery process records indicate that the trials has a price tag of some $36 million to date, half of which was paid by the UK government.

Already nine months into the trial and prosecutors are already of the view that the trial could last way into 2017.

This realization has evoked widespread concern about the cost of the SIPT trials and its impact on the public`s purse.

In this vein Ewing stated that: "In addition to authorizing the spending of millions of dollars to the benefit of a UK initiated legal trial and investigation team, for which there is no accountability, an undertaking with no end in sight, the CFO has denied and delayed major policy initiatives and decisions of the duly elected government with no regard as to the far-reaching implications for the livelihood of our people and our businesses.

"In my meetings with all three of the successive Overseas Territories Ministers, who held office since we were elected to office, the Secretaries of State and DFID Ministers, I have discussed the following issues of concern: The UK Funding of the endless SIPT Trial, Constitutional Amendments and the role of the CFO and, to date, the UK government has continued to disregard the wellbeing of the people of this nation and has continued to abuse its responsibilities as a sovereign state.”