Pub­lic dis­clo­sure closer

New In­tegrity Com­mis­sion Bill tabled in Par­lia­ment

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter

THE JA­MAICA Labour Party ad­min­is­tra­tion seems set on ful­fill­ing its prom­ise of mak­ing it a le­gal re­quire­ment for the pub­li­ca­tion of as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties of prime min­is­ters and lead­ers of the op­po­si­tion, based on an anti-cor­rup­tion leg­is­la­tion that is now be­fore the Par­lia­ment.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Del­roy Chuck last Tues­day tabled the In­tegrity Com­mis­sion Bill in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives dur­ing its first meet­ing af­ter a sum­mer of calls from in­ter­ests groups for the Govern­ment to demon­strate its com­mit­ment to strength­en­ing Ja­maica’s anti-cor­rup­tion sys­tems.

A sim­i­lar bill that had been be­fore the House since 2014 fell off the Or­der Ta­ble af­ter Par­lia­ment was pro­rogued in Fe­bru­ary to make way for the gen­eral elec­tion.

Un­like the pre­vi­ously bill, the Govern­ment has in­tro­duced a pro­vi­sion for the pub­li­ca­tion of a “sum­mary of the statu­tory dec­la­ra­tion made by the prime min­is­ter and the leader of the op­po­si­tion”.

That sum­mary will in­clude, among other things, all forms of in­come, au­to­mo­biles, sav­ings ac­counts, real-es­tate mort­gages, busi­ness in­vest­ments, and the cash value of any life in­sur­ance.

PRO­POSED BILL

The pro­posed bill in­cludes a pro­vi­sion for the prime min­is­ter or op­po­si­tion leader to “make a writ­ten com­plaint to the di­rec­tor of ad­min­is­tra­tion” in re­la­tion to the pub­li­ca­tion.

That di­rec­tor would be a po­si­tion cre­ated in the In­tegrity Com­mis­sion that would rep­re­sent a sin­gle anti-cor­rup­tion body with pros­e­cu­to­rial pow­ers, in­cor­po­rat­ing the Of­fice of the Con­trac­tor Gen­eral, the Cor­rup­tion Pre­ven­tion Com­mis­sion and the Par­lia­ment (In­tegrity of Mem­bers) Com­mis­sion.

“The prime min­is­ter had in­ti­mated that in the In­tegrity Com­mis­sion Bill he wanted full dis­clo­sure from all par­lia­men­tar­i­ans and also other pub­lic of­fi­cials,” Chuck told The Sun­day Gleaner.

“How­ever, since there was no agree­ment with the Op­po­si­tion up to the time when we tabled the bill, we agreed that only the prime min­is­ter and the leader of the op­po­si­tion would dis­close their as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties.

“But within two years, a de­ci­sion will be made as to who else would dis­close their as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties, and also in what form,” added Chuck.

He ar­gued that in­clud­ing the manda­tory dis­clo­sure in the leg­is­la­tion is im­por­tant “be­cause there is a call for all po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives to dis­close their as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties”.

Mark Gold­ing, the op­po­si­tion spokesman on jus­tice, who first tabled the bill, said he was pleased the leg­is­la­tion is back be­fore Par­lia­ment, but ar­gued that the dis­clo­sure re­quire­ment for the prime min­is­ter and leader of the op­po­si­tion “is nei­ther here nor there”.

ROAD TO TRANS­PARENCY

“I don’t con­sider this a par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant is­sue. I think what mat­ters is that the In­tegrity Com­mis­sion, when it re­ceives the fil­ings, is in a po­si­tion to do a proper anal­y­sis of them. This par­tic­u­lar fea­ture of re­lease to the pub­lic will go some dis­tance to­wards ap­peas­ing the de­sires of the me­dia and some civil-so­ci­ety ac­tors.

“I’m hop­ing it (the bill) will rep­re­sent a true ex­pres­sion of what was there be­fore,” said Gold­ing, as he pointed to the amend­ments rec­om­mended by a joint com­mit­tee of the last Par­lia­ment.

In the mean­time, Pro­fes­sor Trevor Mun­roe, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the anti-cor­rup­tion lobby Na­tional In­tegrity Ac­tion, said the dis­clo­sure pro­vi­sion is “an im­por­tant first step on the road to a more trans­par­ent regime for pub­lic of­fi­cers”.

Ac­cord­ing to Mun­roe: “I em­pha­sise a first step be­cause, ob­vi­ously, it should not only be the prime min­is­ter and the leader of the op­po­si­tion but other lead­ers as well.

“The bill has been pre­vi­ously sub­ject to two joint se­lect com­mit­tees in suc­ces­sive ad­min­is­tra­tion and, there­fore, in the con­text of pub­lic con­cern and con­tro­versy re­gard­ing as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties of pub­lic of­fi­cers, it is ur­gent that this bill be passed into law.”

The pro­posed leg­is­la­tion will now go be­fore a com­mit­tee of Par­lia­ment for de­lib­er­a­tions.

HOL­NESS

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