Analysts say CIU resignations must be explained

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A transparency advocate, a political analyst and a former senator have agreed that Prime Minister Gaston Browne owes the public an explanation as to why the two most senior officers of the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) have resigned.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Disclosure Today, Rishi Maharaj said because “this unit collects a lot of revenue that is used by the government” the public “at least has a right to know the reason for the individuals resigning”.
He declared, “If the programme falls under the prime minister then the prime minister has the responsibility under the Act of reporting to Parliament and so the onus is on him to provide the information as to why they resigned.”
The former CEO of the CIU Chisanga Chekwe tendered his resignation in recent months and was due to leave the unit in April. Deputy CEO Thomas Anthony – who was Acting CEO prior to Chekwe’s arrival – resigned sometime last week and it is unknown whether it was immediate. PM Browne has refused to say why they resigned.
Maharaj added that “since they have already resigned” and “no longer hold duty under the office” the two men are not the ones to seek answers from.
“They will probably tell you to go back to the prime minister,” the Disclosure Today CEO said, adding that Browne also has an obligation to say whether “the resignations are going to have an impact on how the programme is run”.
Maharaj was speaking on Sunday’s Big Issues programme on OBSERVER Radio.
He was joined by Director of Political Affairs at United States (US)
based firm, Paramount Communications, Dr Os-wald Thomas who agreed that “in the interest of transparency and the international reputation of the programme” it was important for “the Cabinet to say to the nation or publish on the CIU website the reasons why the persons have said they are leaving the unit”.
Dr Thomas, who once advised members of the ruling Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) queried, “Was this an amicable divorce or a contentious divorce?”
Former Senator Anthony Stuart, who was also on the Big Issues, argued that an explanation was owed and said, “The crux of the matter could be that persons like Chekwe cannot manage the operations of the CIU as they would like to manage it – like an executive officer.”
He said the question must be asked, “Is the CIU a statutory quasi body that is set up to be run semi-autonomous of government? Or is it a department of government where it will have oversight from a PS and a Cabinet?”
Stuart, who is also a financial consultant, said that he believes “the Cabinet is intricately involved in the hour-to -hour, day-to-day operations of the unit”.
At the same time, Dr Thomas posited a different theory as to why Thomas Anthony resigned.
“He was with the unit from day one as I understand. He was acting CEO when they brought Chekwe from Canada and so then Anthony becomes the deputy CEO. This Canadian left and [they] took somebody and make them CEO over [him]. I think it was structural dismissal,” Dr Thomas said.
As the appointment of the new CEO Charmaine Quinland-Donovan takes effect today, she is being urged by Maharaj to do “some reputational damage control off the bat”.
“Reassure people and reassure the public and reassure the international community that the programme is above board and you are controlled and measured in what you do,” he said.
Stuart also weighed in: “I know Miss Charmaine Quinland-Donovan. I know her to be a person of high integrity, probity, independence of mind and of intellect so I welcome her appointment to the top post,” and he implored her “not to succumb to any political pressure in the execution of her duties”.
He also said it was critical that she “reach out to the US State Department and find out the reason for its conclusion” in its International Narcotics Control and Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) where it called Antigua & Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) “among the [laxest] in the world”.
The report prompted PM Browne – who in January refused to say why Chekwe resigned – to blast the Canadian for alleged overspending on travel and an alleged unwillingness to submit to ministerial directives.

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