Senate Approves Corruption Act and Regulations

The Senate yesterday (Dec. 9) gave its approval to a Bill to amend the Corruption Prevention Act and the cohort Corruption Prevention Regulations.
Tabling the legislation, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senator A.J. Nicholson, said the amendments served to give effect to several recommendations 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 under the Act, to request information from various civic bodies. The groups in question are: 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.
Senator Nicholson said the change would facilitate the Commission in conducting enquiries into cases that appeared suspicious enough to warrant investigation. With the amendments, the levels of confidentiality expected of public servants have become even more stringent. Persons will now be expected to regard as secret and confidential, any information that may come to them not only during but also after their period of employment.
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.
Furthermore ‘spouse” as originally defined in the Principal Act, has been modified to include not only married persons residing together but also single men and single women living together as husband and wife for a period not less than five years with the term “single man” and “single woman” including “widow”, “widower” and “divorcee” as might be the case. This amendment arose out of the concern that the traditional understanding of the term “spouse” would leave open the possibility of public servants placing assets in the hands of their common-law spouses so as to avoid disclosure.
Meanwhile, the amendments to the draft Corruption Prevention Regulations among other things, reflects the changes made to several posts within government departments, which were either removed, or modified due to restructuring.
The Attorney General said the efforts were all part of the undertaking to break down barriers created by bureaucratic behaviour and fight corruption from all angles.
He further stressed that the powers given to the Commission to request information from designated bodies and individuals in situations where there was reasonable cause for suspicion, was not an attempt to trample the individual rights of citizens.

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