JIS News

The House of Representatives yesterday (March 8), suspended debate on the Bill to Amend the Corruption (Prevention) Act and the Corruption (Prevention) (Amendment) Regulations following a stalemate between government and Opposition members over whether the Corruption Prevention Commission had requested the additional powers that would be granted to it through the amendments, as well as the necessity of the legislation.
Piloting the Bill and the regulations National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips explained that, “the amendment to the Act and the regulations are intended to give effect to a number of recommendations that have been made by the Corruption Prevention Commission in its annual report”.
The amendments to the Corruption Prevention Act will, among other things, allow the Commission, in carrying out investigations, to request information from various civic bodies. These groups include: A Revenue Commissioner under the Revenue Administration Act; A bank licensed under the Banking Act; a financial institution registered under the Financial Institutions Act; a building society registered under the Building Societies Act; a society registered under the Co-operative Societies Act, or Industrial and Provident Societies Act; or a person registered under the Public Accountancy Act.
Dr. Phillips noted that the changes would facilitate the work of the Commission in conducting enquiries into cases that “appeared suspicious enough to warrant investigation”. Persons would be expected to regard as secret and confidential, any information that may come to the Commission not only during but also after their period of employment.
“In other words, obligation is imposed not only in respect of the period of employment but also to any time subsequent to the cessation of their employment.
So that if you work in the Commission, not necessarily as a Commissioner, you are required to treat any information that comes to you in the line of that work as secret, ” he explained.
Penalties for breach of this provision have been increased from $500,000 to a fine not exceeding $2 million or imprisonment of not more than three years.
Dr. Phillips pointed out that, “careful and sympathetic consideration has been given to the legislative recommendations made by the Commission and they have all been supported in each and every respect save but one, and that is the recommendation that the late return of declaration should be criminalized, where it was thought that the disciplinary sanctions are more than appropriate and can in fact accomplish what is needed in this regard.”
He added that, “if a public servant is late in sending forward his declaration, that by itself ought not to make the public servant liable to criminal sanction. It must be borne in mind however, that by Section 12 of the Act, if no declaration whatsoever is forwarded, the Commission is empowered to report that fact to various bodies including the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Such a report could of course trigger an investigation concerning the public officer”.
But Opposition Spokesman, on Finance Audley Shaw questioned the necessity of the legislation, suggesting that the Commission already had adequate powers, which they needed the resources to carry out.The debate was stalled when National Security Spokesman Derrick Smith and other Opposition members, called for withdrawal of the Bill, stating that the Commission had not requested in its recommendations, the additional powers being granted to it.
Dr. Phillips explained that the Commission’s recommendations, which spoke to the power to inspect documents, records of government departments and agencies, had sparked the effort to redo the legislation. He pointed out that subsequent drafts had been sent to the Commission whose representatives were also present at the drafting of the Bill.
He emphasized that the request for the powers of inspection and investigation as set out in the Bill, had gone through all the legal channels, including the Attorney General’s office. “To that extent, obviously, no objection has been forthcoming from them and the Bill is here with their knowledge and with their participation in the process”.
While maintaining that the Bill was substantively correct”, the government side agreed to suspend the debate to allow for discussions regarding the Opposition’s concerns to proceed. The debate will be concluded next Tuesday.

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