KINGSTON – Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, closed the debate on the Corruption Prevention (Special Prosecutor) Act in the House of Representatives on March 15, which will strengthen the Government’s efforts in the fight against corruption.
With some three years since the bill was first tabled in Parliament, the Prime Minister said, “it has been a long journey, perhaps necessarily so. It’s not the kind of thing we could rush. In some areas, we are breaking new ground…there were 11 meetings of the Joint Select Committee, there were submissions from the public."
He stated that arguments from both sides of the House and in the Senate have resulted in 39 pages of amendments. He expressed the hope that “because we have sought to deliberately capture the concerns that were made in the Senate, that when it leaves here and goes back to (the Senate), I’m hoping that it will have no undue delay."
Citing what he said was “perhaps the most significant change” the Prime Minister said this was the requirement for the Special Prosecutor to maintain confidentiality of investigations, and non disclosure, except for instituting criminal proceedings, or where the official considers it necessary.
He stated that “very strong” concern was expressed about premature and unnecessary public disclosure of the Special Prosecutor’s intention to launch an investigation.
“It poses two significant dangers. Firstly, it could well impede or frustrate the investigations because a public statement is sent out (such as media advisory), and the second danger is the unintended damage that it can do to people’s reputation,” he asserted.
Mr. Golding further pointed to the fact that the police and the Director of Public Prosecution does not make public statements when they are about to launch an investigation, and that it was prudent for the Special Prosecutor’s office to operate in a similar manner.
The Bill will be considered for approval before a committee of the entire House at its next sitting.
The Corruption Prevention (Special Prosecutor) Act will repeal the 2001 Corruption (Prevention) Act and the 1973 Parliament (Integrity of Members) Act, to establish the Office of the Special Prosecutor as a department of Government with the specific mandate to monitor statutory declarations from public officials and to prosecute those who engage in corrupt conduct.
It provides for the Special Prosecutor’s Office to be notified by the security forces and other public officials, when they uncover evidence of corrupt conduct.
The Office will also be responsible for: advising and assisting the security forces, public authorities and other persons on methods to combat or eliminate corrupt conduct; making recommendations to Parliament on legislative measures designed to strengthen the country’s anti-corruption regime; and informing and advising public authorities, public officials, and other persons, about strategies to combat corrupt conduct, and enlisting public support to address such conduct.
CONTACT: ALPHEA SAUNDERS