In­tegrity Com­mis­sion slowly re­ceiv­ing dec­la­ra­tions from pub­lic of­fi­cials

-Hughes’ sub­mis­sion among 300 to be ex­am­ined

Stabroek News Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Zoisa Fraser

The In­tegrity Com­mis­sion will soon start its ex­am­i­na­tion of ap­prox­i­mately 300 dec­la­ra­tions, in­clud­ing one sub­mit­ted by Pub­lic Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Cathy Hughes, com­mis­sion Chair­man Ku­mar Do­raisami said on Thurs­day.

The lo­cal anti-cor­rup­tion watch­dog Trans­parency In­sti­tute of Guyana Inc (TIGI) last month ex­pressed con­cerns that there may be a po­ten­tial con­flict of in­ter­est for Min­is­ter Hughes, given that her hus­band, at­tor­ney Nigel Hughes, is a manag­ing di­rec­tor of the Hughes, Fields and Stoby law firm, which re­cently es­tab­lished an of­fice in Hous­ton, Texas to pro­vide le­gal ser­vices to clients in the oil and gas sec­tor.

In re­sponse, Min­is­ter Hughes in­formed that on July 4th, 2018, she sub­mit­ted her dec­la­ra­tion of as­sets and in­ter­est to the In­tegrity Com­mis­sion and then on Oc­to­ber 9th, re­peated her dis­clo­sure to Cab­i­net about her hus­band’s po­si­tion in the law firm and the im­pend­ing estab­lish­ment of a Hous­ton of­fice. While she is await­ing the ad­vice of cab­i­net and one of two lawyers she con­sulted, she has as­sured that she will ex­cuse her­self from any en­ergy dis­cus­sions at the Cab­i­net level.

Sun­day Stabroek con­tacted Do­raisami day to de­ter­mine whether the ex­am­i­na­tion of the min­is­ter’s dec­la­ra­tion was com­pleted.

“No, we haven’t ac­tu­ally looked at it yet. We ac­tu­ally set some time dur­ing the [next] week when all three com­mis­sion­ers would sit. Right now we haven’t been able to meet… def­i­nitely next week we will look at them,” he said.

Do­raisami, a for­mer land court judge who is now in pri­vate prac­tice, along with at­tor­neys Rose­mary Ben­jam­inNoble and Thandi McAl­lis­ter, and Pandit Rabindranath Per­saud make up the com­mis­sion, which was es­tab­lished in Fe­bru­ary this year. The of­fice of the In­tegrity Com­mis­sion is lo­cated at Church Road, Subryanville.

The Chair­man could not re­call when the min­is­ter sub­mit­ted her dec­la­ra­tion but in­formed that of the close to 1,300 forms sent out to per­sons oc­cu­py­ing pub­lic of­fices, “we only re­ceived about 300 up to last month.”

He said that the dec­la­ra­tions were “com­ing in slowly” and that the other mem­bers of the com­mis­sion will ded­i­cate some time to look at the forms sub­mit­ted.

“Re­mem­ber, the com­mis­sion­ers are not full­time em­ploy­ees. We are all em­ployed else­where and we try to meet as of­ten as we can. Some­times, when some­one is sick we have to wait un­til they re­cover,” he said. Do­raisami was in Ber­bice when he spoke with this news­pa­per.

Not­ing that dec­la­ra­tions are “com­ing in now, com­pared to be­fore,” he said that the com­mis­sion is de­ter­mined to speed things up.

Asked for a break­down of those who have so far sub­mit­ted, he said that he did not have all the in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing this within his reach. He was able to say with cer­tainty, though, that par­lia­men­tar­i­ans – both gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion— and other cat­e­gories of gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have made dec­la­ra­tions.

He said when the com­mis­sion sits and looks at the forms, it would be able to sep­a­rate them ac­cord­ing to Min­is­ters, Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries, Deputy Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries and the other cat­e­gories.

Fur­ther, he ex­plained that the com­mis­sion will be look­ing at the as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties of per­sons in pub­lic life and whether those of­fi­cials sent in the re­quired sup­port­ing doc­u­ments. He said in in­stances of prop­erty own­er­ship, the com­mis­sion would ex­pect to see a trans­port, and in in­stances of in­for­ma­tion per­tain­ing to a bank ac­count, a bank state­ment is re­quired.

He said that if ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion is needed, the com­mis­sion will write the of­fi­cial re­quest­ing same.

In­ter­views for per­sons who have ap­plied for cer­tain po­si­tions were set to be con­ducted on Fri­day and work is be­ing done on a bud­get, Do­raisami said.

“We can’t hire with­out money,” he said, be­fore ex­press­ing op­ti­mism that the re­quired staff will be in place in a month’s time.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­tegrity Com­mis­sion Act, ev­ery per­son who is a per­son in pub­lic life, not be­ing a mem­ber of the Com­mis­sion, is re­quired to file a dec­la­ra­tion ev­ery year on or be­fore 30th June and in cases where such per­sons cease to be a per­son in pub­lic life, within thirty days from the date on which the per­son ceases to be a per­son in pub­lic life.

“A dec­la­ra­tion un­der sub­sec­tion (I) or (2) shall give full, true and com­plete par­tic­u­lars of the as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties as on the rel­e­vant date, and the in­come dur­ing a pe­riod of twelve months im­me­di­ately prior to the rel­e­vant date, of the per­son fill­ing the dec­la­ra­tion (whether the as­sets were held by that per­son in his own name or in the name of any other per­son) and of the spouse and chil­dren of such per­son to the ex­tent to which such per­son has knowl­edge of the same,” it fur­ther states.

It states that where a per­son in pub­lic life holds any money or other prop­erty in trust for an­other per­son, not be­ing his spouse or child or an­other per­son in pub­lic life, he shall so state in his dec­la­ra­tion but shall not be re­quired to dis­close the terms of the trust.

“A per­son in pub­lic life is re­quired to dis­close in his dec­la­ra­tion… such de­tails in re­spect of the in­come, as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties of him­self and those of his spouse and his chil­dren, as by the ex­er­cise of rea­son­able care should be known to him,” the Act states, adding that for the pur­poses of a dec­la­ra­tion un­der Sec­tion 13, the in­come, as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties of a per­son in pub­lic life, his spouse and his child shall in­clude the in­come, as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties ac­quired, held or in­curred by any other per­son as agent or on be­half

of all or any of them.

Any di­rect or in­di­rect ben­e­fit ac­cru­ing to the in­come or as­sets of a declarant or his spouse or child must be dis­closed in a dec­la­ra­tion un­der sec­tion 13, it states.

The Act, while out­lin­ing what hap­pens in in­stances of blind trust, ex­plained that a per­son is as­so­ci­ated with an­other where that other per­son is the spouse or child of the per­son or the part­ner of the per­son in a pro­fes­sional, trade, or com­mer­cial un­der­tak­ing; or a cor­po­ra­tion and the first men­tioned per­son or the spouse or the child con­trols the cor­po­ra­tion, its hold­ing cor­po­ra­tion or a cor­po­ra­tion af­fil­i­ated with ei­ther.

Fur­ther, it states that the Com­mis­sion or the Pres­i­dent, as the case may be, shall re­ceive, ex­am­ine and re­tain all dec­la­ra­tions and doc­u­ments filed with it or him un­der the Act; and make such en­quiries as it or he con­sid­ers nec­es­sary in or­der to ver­ify or de­ter­mine the ac­cu­racy of the fi­nan­cial af­fairs, as stated in the dec­la­ra­tions of per­sons

who are re­quired to file dec­la­ra­tions un­der this Act.

In a case where there is a fail­ure to file dec­la­ra­tions or fur­nish par­tic­u­lars, the Act, the Com­mis­sion or the Pres­i­dent, as the case may be, shall “pub­lish the fact in the Gazette and in a daily news­pa­per.”

Those of­fi­cials who fail to sub­mit their dec­la­ra­tions or sub­mit dec­la­ra­tions that are false or in­com­plete shall be li­able, on sum­mary con­vic­tion, to “a fine of twenty-five thou­sand dol­lars and to im­pris­on­ment for a term of not less than six months nor more than one year, and where the of­fence in­volves the non-dis­clo­sure, by the declarant, of prop­erty, which should have been dis­closed in the dec­la­ra­tion, the mag­is­trate con­vict­ing the per­son shall or­der the per­son to make full dis­clo­sure of the prop­erty within a given time and on fail­ure to com­ply with the or­der of the mag­is­trate within the given time, the said of­fence shall be deemed to be a con­tin­u­ing of­fence and the per­son shall be li­able to a fur­ther fine of ten thou­sand dol­lars for each day on which the of­fence con­tin­ues,” the Act states.

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