Foreign Office chooses Caribbean assignment for Norfolk County Council leader and staff

A Caribbean paradise blighted by corruption allegations will have to be tutored by Norfolk council officials before it can re-establish democratic elections.

The Foreign Office has picked Norfolk County Council to mentor political staff from the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) in managing finances, governance and economic development.

An inquiry in 2009 concluded there was a 'high probability of systematic corruption' among ministers, members of the legislature and public officials in the former TCI government.

Elections were suspended, with the Foreign Office demanding 'reform work' must take place before all constitutional powers are returned to the overseas British territory.

Derrick Murphy, Norfolk County Council leader, has already jetted out to the TCI for a seven-day fact-finding trip.

He has submitted a report to the Foreign Office and delegations from the TCI are scheduled to start visiting Norfolk from June.

Mr Murphy insisted the Caribbean destination was irrelevant and the Foreign Office invitation was an 'accolade' for Norfolk.

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He said: 'If it happened to be in the Antarctic we would have gone anyway. It just happened to be where it is. It doesn't matter if you are in the Caribbean or the Antarctic, if you are in meetings day after day, a room is a room. My aim was to pack in as much as we could.

'It was very intense from the moment I arrived - it was meeting after meeting after meeting.'

The unlikely relationship between Norfolk and TCI has emerged more than 200 years after naval hero Lord Horatio Nelson attempted to resolve a British problem in the area.

In 1783, Nelson failed in his bid to recapture Grand Turk, one of the territory's islands, after the land had been seized by the French.

Mr Murphy said: 'The good news is our work is being funded by the Foreign Office and not the Norfolk taxpayer.

'The politicians who are wanting to get the elections, some are saying 'this is British colonialism', 'Britain is coming to impose things on us' - that sort of language. I felt it was very refreshing how open they were and candid they were about the problems they face and are willing to work with us.

'And because I had lots of meetings with them, I think they began to realise how valuable the link was.'

A Foreign Office spokesman said: 'As part of this reform work, the FCO are funding an initiative with Norfolk County Council to share their knowledge of administrative, organisational, budgetary processes, good governance and policy-making best practice with TCI. This involves exchange visits and mentoring.'

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