JIS News

The House of Representatives last week approved a Resolution calling for the establishment of a joint selection committee to conduct a review of the Corruption Prevention Act and the operations of the Corruption Prevention Commission.
Debating the resolution, which was brought before the House by Opposition Leader, Bruce Golding last year, National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips said there was no disagreement as the motion raised an important issue.
“Everyone here recognizes that any perception or any act of corruption involving any element within the state apparatus has the prospect of sapping public confidence in the state, governmental institutions and is disruptive generally to the harmony of society,” Dr. Phillips noted.
The law was enacted in 2000 and amended in 2002 to provide for a review, with a stipulation that the first review should be conducted not later than three years after May 1, 2001. Failure to do so would constitute a violation of the Act.
Dr. Phillips, while conceding that the review was overdue, pointed out that the expectation for the review to be carried out in the specified time-frame was overly ambitious, given the fact that the Commission did not start its activities until 2003.
“It would not have been possible to have the review of performance with any significance.The fact of the matter is the agency did not begin its operations until 2003; it would have had scarcely a year in operation at the time,” Dr. Phillips told the House.However, he noted that the time was now appropriate for the review to be undertaken as there was now a record of performance which could be examined.
On the matter of the amendments which were brought to the House to strengthen the provisions of the Act, following the first report, Dr. Phillips said while they did not find favour with the House, it was hoped that consensus could be reached following the review.
“Following the review which is being called for, we certainly will be in a position, we hope, to find unanimity about the amendments that are to be taken, which would strengthen the capacity of the Corruption Prevention Commission in getting the necessary information,” the National Security Minister said.
Furthermore, he said it was clear that the amendments were agreed on, especially with the call for modifications to ensure that there were penalties for persons who were delinquent in reporting.
“There needs to be an amendment of the provisions of the Act to ensure that there is a penalty.because you cannot have the case where, when the agencies and officials in agencies are required to report, they flout the reporting requirements with impunity and the Commission is powerless to secure compliance,” Dr Phillips pointed out.
In addition, he said it was “particularly incumbent upon the members of the Security Forces to provide the reports”.
“It cannot be the case that members of the security forces or any other member of the public sector, subject to the Act, refuses to report, but I single out the security forces because they are sworn to uphold the law, and to be so obviously in breach of the requirements of the law will bring the law itself into disrepute,” the Minister said.
Dr. Phillips noted that while it was the responsibility of all citizens in the public sector to ensure the maintenance of transparency and the integrity of the sector, it should be ensured that whatever legislation was put in place also put an equal obligation on persons occupying positions of trust.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for St. Andrew North Central, Karl Samuda said in relation to the conduct of the Commission since its inception, the issue was not with the delay, but in the fact that the Commission, as presently constituted, was not in a position to carry out its duties effectively.
This, he argued, resulted from the Commission being staffed by five part-time Commissioners, including the Chairman, and five full time staff members who could not handle the attendant workload.
In January when the Act was first promulgated, it was expected that declarations would be received from 15,536 public servants. The number at present has been increased to 16,964 to be received by this group of 10 persons and for review by the five Commissioners. Mr. Samuda said data was still being inputted for 2004.
“It is clear the Commission cannot carry out its mandate with the limited staff it now has,” he argued. Furthermore, he said the Commission, as currently constituted, was not perceived as a sufficient threat to be able to successfully investigate and prosecute in cases, and needed to be given more resources to allow it to investigate and prosecute and take matters to their final conclusion.
In his contribution to the debate, Mr. Golding said the delay raised the question of whether there was a will to aggressively pursue the prevention of corruption and the punishment of persons involved, noting that the resolution which was raised from June of last year should have been dealt with already. Furthermore, he said given the mandate of the Commission, the $16 million budgetary allocation was not enough.
Mr. Golding also suggested that the Committee should consider whether the Commission should be made a Commission of Parliament that was answerable to the House.
Noting that the experience of the Commission in effecting sanctions had not been positive, Mr. Golding called for the establishment of a special prosecutorial authority to deal with the matter of corruption in public administration and also proposed the establishment of a Prosecutor General.

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