‘Mitch’ Was Architect Of Private Insurance Plan, deCastro Says It Should Be Halted

BVI Platinum News
June 08, 2021 1:52 pm AST
BVI Platinum News | June 08, 2021 1:52 pm AST
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Hon. Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull(Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News)
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Hon. Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull(Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News)

Junior Minister of Tourism and At-Large Representative, Hon. Sharie deCastro has called out Second District Representative, Hon. Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull, calling him to come clean as the architect of the controversial private insurance plan for legislators.

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In a media statement released today, June 8, Hon. deCastro, the Privileges Committee of the House of Assembly (HoA), of which she a Member, was assigned the responsibility of reviewing a proposal on supplemental health insurance for current and former HoA Members.

According to Hon. deCastro, the recommendation was brought forward by Hon. Turnbull who was also appointed as the lead on this initiative due to his expertise in the field.

“Additionally, all preliminary meetings with local insurance providers were conducted by the Member for the 2nd District, who then reported to the Committee, following which presentations were made to the Committee by local insurance providers,” Hon. deCastro pointed out.

She said subsequently, the Ministry of Finance advised that a formal procurement process should be engaged. Consequently, all negotiations regarding the Request for Proposal (RFP) for supplemental health coverage were handled by the Member for the 2nd District, in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance.

According to deCastro, once negotiations regarding the RFP with representatives from the Ministry of Finance were concluded, the said representatives then met with the Members in an Informal Meeting of the HoA on April 27th, 2021 to report on the proposed agreement reached.

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“To my recollection it should also be noted that during the Informal Meeting, all elected members except one, who was absent, had the opportunity to participate in related discussions and we all unanimously agreed that the RFP should go forward as proposed. As a Member of the Privileges Committee, I understand the frustration of the public regarding the proposed private health insurance for HoA Members,” Hon. deCastro stated.

She added, “However, it should be noted that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were a number of policy matters that were already in the works, and this was one of them. I do agree that given the current climate, this matter may have been better addressed with a sensitization campaign to give the public greater awareness of the intentions behind the initiative.”

Full Statement From Hon. deCastro

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Hon. Sharie deCastro
Photo Credit: GIS
This statement is in response to a press release issued by the Leader of the Opposition under the caption “HER MAJESTYS LOYAL OPPOSITION’S POSITION ON THE HOA PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE.”

Privileges Committee of the House of Assembly (HoA), of which I am a Member, was assigned the responsibility of reviewing a proposal on supplemental health insurance for current and former HoA Members. The objective of the committee was to explore the feasibility of the recommendation made.

It should also be noted that this recommendation was brought forward by the Member for the 2nd District who was also appointed as the lead on this initiative due to his expertise in the field. Additionally, all preliminary meetings with local insurance providers were conducted by the Member for the 2nd District, who then reported to the Committee, following which presentations were made to the Committee by local insurance providers.

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Subsequently, the Ministry of Finance advised that a formal procurement process should be engaged. Consequently, all negotiations regarding the Request for Proposal (RFP) for supplemental health coverage was handled by the Member for the 2nd District, in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance.

Once negotiations regarding the RFP with representatives from the Ministry of Finance were concluded, the said representatives then met with the Members in an Informal Meeting of the HoA on April 27th, 2021 to report on the proposed agreement reached.

To my recollection it should also be noted that during the Informal Meeting, all elected members except one, who was absent, had the opportunity to participate in related discussions and we all unanimously agreed that the RFP should go forward as proposed.

As a Member of the Privileges Committee, I understand the frustration of the public regarding the proposed private health insurance for HoA Members.

However, it should be noted that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were a number of policy matters that were already in the works, and this was one of them. I do agree that given the current climate, this matter may have been better addressed with a sensitization campaign to give the public greater awareness of the intentions behind the initiative.

I will also go on record to say that I, along with all Members agreed with the proposal, even though it morphed significantly with contributions from the general body. This brings me to the letter written by the Member for the 2nd District which has now been made public and the press release from the Leader of the Opposition on the subject.

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What is extremely disappointing and what took me by surprise, is the blatant disregard for the facts by the Member for the 2nd District when he, seemingly motivated by the public’s response, attempted to distort the facts in order to deceptively excuse himself from a collective decision of which he was the architect.

In his letter, the Member for the 2nd District stated that he “made it clear” to the Speaker and the team at the Procurement Unit that he would have to write a report based on his findings as an “experienced professional in the insurance field.”

It should be noted, that in actuality, at no point did the Member express reservations regarding the publication of the tender document. In fact, the said Member met with the Ministry of Finance to make additional recommendations to the tender document after the document was presented to Members and prior to it being made public.

Most importantly, the Member was copied on and in some instances addressed directly in electronic correspondences at every stage during the process.

As such, for the Member to assert that the document was finalized without his involvement and subsequently made public is grossly and maliciously mendacious! As a consequence of such blatant misrepresentation of the facts by the Member of the 2nd District, the Leader of the Opposition then issued a press release on June 7th, 2021 publicly amplifying the false pronouncements as matters of fact. It is my belief, that the Leader of the Opposition also saw this as an opportunity to pose as a bystander to the process.

However, the Leader of the Opposition in this instance is being disingenuous, as he too was copied on correspondence regarding the RFP and could have indicated his opposition at any point during the process.

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The press release also referenced a Terms of Reference (ToR) requiring the lead Member of the Steering Group to “provide a report to the HoA informing Members on whether a proposal to procure private health insurance was ready for tender, along with recommendations on how to proceed.”

However, I can state unequivocally that there is no such requirement in any ToR. As such, this attempt to alter the facts can only be seen as a deliberate move by the Members of the Opposition to deny their agreeable involvement in this process and thereby deceive the public into believing that they had unheard concerns on the subject, all in an effort to score cheap political points.

Let it also be known that the evidence will support my response. I do believe that the voice of the people should be heard and I encourage the active participation of the Virgin Islands people in this process.

In this light, I would agree that the process should be halted so that due consideration could be given to the concerns of the people. I would also support a decision for the matter to be referred back to the HoA for a collective decision on the way forward

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