TIGI rec­om­men­da­tions ig­nored

Weekend Mirror - - EDITORIAL -

long-awaited min­is­te­rial Code of Con­duct has been gazetted by the coali­tion Gov­ern­ment, but de­spite the con­cerns raised by Trans­parency In­sti­tute of Guyana Inc (TIGI) when it reviewed the draft, some of its most crit­i­cal rec­om­men­da­tions have been ig­nored.

Af­ter re­view­ing the doc­u­ment ear­lier this year, one of TIGI’s main rec­om­men­da­tions had been for penal­ties the State could im­pose for spe­cific breaches by Min­is­ters and of­fi­cials to be in­cor­po­rated within the Code of Con­duct. Ac­cord­ing to the anti-cor­rup­tion ad­vo­cate, the Code was silent on these penal­ties.

The Code is ex­pected to cover Min­is­ters, Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment and pub­lic of­fice hold­ers

But while the Code lists trans­gres­sions such as tak­ing and so­lic­it­ing bribes, ex­hibit­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion while dis­charg­ing one’s du­ties and us­ing pub­lic prop­erty for un­of­fi­cial pur­poses, the Code re­mains com­pletely silent on what form penal­ties, if any, will take.

At the time, TIGI had com­plained that while there was fo­cus on breaches of the Code, the Pres­i­dent, David Granger, and the Min­is­ter of State, Joseph Har­mon, were identified as the rel­e­vant author­i­ties for ad­min­is­ter­ing dis­ci­plinary action.

Since the Code was silent on spe­cific penal­ties for breaches, TIGI had warned that this left these two of­fi­cials with the re­spon­si­bil­ity to de­ter­mine the penal­ties. TIGI had noted that in­stead of leav­ing this to the will of the very peo­ple the Code would gov­ern, spe­cific penal­ties for some breaches should be laid out.

“This will im­prove pub­lic con­fi­dence in the process. The Code it­self needs to be fleshed out in much greater de­tail, and we strongly rec­om­mend tak­ing guid­ance from model leg­is­la­tion such as the UNCAC.”

But the amended Code of Con­duct makes no men­tion of any dis­ci­plinar­i­ans. In fact, Ar­ti­cle 12, which TIGI said made men­tion of the Pres­i­dent and his Min­is­ter, has been re­moved.

Other prob­lems that TIGI identified with the draft were the ab­sence of a spe­cific time limit for re­solv­ing con­flicts of in­ter­est in­volv­ing Min­is­ters and pub­lic of­fi­cials in Ar­ti­cle Four. It had noted that phrases like “as soon as prac­ti­ca­ble” could lead to abuse.

This ad­vice has gone un­heeded by the Gov­ern­ment, with Ar­ti­cle Four (1) stat­ing “that pub­lic of­fi­cials would not al­low pri­vate in­ter­est or the pur­suit thereof to con­flict with their du­ties or im­prop­erly in­flu­ence con­duct”.

“Pro­vided that any such con­flict that tends to in­ter­fere with the proper dis­charge of his or her pub­lic du­ties shall be re­ported to the Integrity Com­mis­sion for guid­ance on a resolution as soon as prac­ti­ca­ble in favour of the of­fi­cial du­ties of the per­son in pub­lic life.”

And while TIGI had warned the Gov­ern­ment against leav­ing it up to the con­flicted Min­is­ter to avoid con­flict of in­ter­est sit­u­a­tions, Ar­ti­cle Four (3) states that pub­lic of­fi­cials will “take rea­son­able steps to avoid, re­solve and dis­close any ma­te­rial con­flict of in­ter­est, fi­nan­cial or non-fi­nan­cial, that arises or is likely to arise”.

It seems that one of the few changes that were made in ac­cor­dance with in­put from the trans­parency ad­vo­cate was ex­pand­ing Ar­ti­cle Eight, which deals with sex­ual mis­con­duct of pub­lic of­fi­cials.

TIGI had ex­pressed crit­i­cism of Ar­ti­cle Eight, say­ing that it only ref­er­enced sex­ual mis­con­duct while per­form­ing of­fi­cial du­ties. Ac­cord­ing to TIGI, “this is an un­nec­es­sary and un­de­sir­able re­stric­tion.” The or­gan­i­sa­tion had made it clear that sex­ual mis­con­duct, whether on or off duty, must dis­qual­ify any­one from con­tin­u­ing to hold the post of a pub­lic of­fi­cial.

In the gazetted ver­sion of the Code, Ar­ti­cle Eight (1) states that no pub­lic of­fi­cial shall “pur­sue a course of con­duct which amounts to of­fen­sive sex­ual com­ments, ges­tures or phys­i­cal con­tact or such con­duct of a crim­i­nal na­ture un­der the Sex­ual Of­fences Act.”

Part two of Ar­ti­cle Eight goes on to pro­hibit sex­ual mis­con­duct while a pub­lic of­fi­cial en­gages in of­fi­cial du­ties. In ad­di­tion, it pro­hibits an of­fi­cial from us­ing their author­ity for “sex­ual gratification”. Again, how­ever, the Code does not spec­ify any steps the Gov­ern­ment would take against such de­viants, in­de­pen­dent of crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings un­der the Sex­ual Of­fences Act.

A com­mit­tee was ap­pointed in 2015 to re­view and strengthen the draft Code of Con­duct. Last year, Nat­u­ral Resources Min­is­ter Raphael Trot­man had stated while hand­ing over the doc­u­ment to Prime Min­is­ter Moses Nag­amootoo that the Com­mis­sion had reviewed sim­i­lar documents from Africa, Europe and other parts of the Caribbean.

But TIGI has been crit­i­cal about the over­all lack of spec- ificity in the lan­guage used to craft the Code, leav­ing loop­holes open for Min­is­ters and others gov­erned by it to es­cape sanc­tions. It had noted that “this lack of speci­ficity ap­pears as low com­mit­ment to integrity in pub­lic of­fice and it can ul­ti­mately im­pede the ef­fec­tive­ness of the Code and erode pub­lic con­fi­dence”.

The Code of Con­duct is made up of 11 Ar­ti­cles. Ar­ti­cle One pro­hibits pub­lic of­fi­cials from tak­ing bribes, while Ar­ti­cle Two fo­cuses on dis­crim­i­na­tion. Ar­ti­cle Three pro­hibits pub­lic of­fi­cials from ac­cept­ing “any gift, ben­e­fit or ad­van­tage from any­one, (ex­cept) per­sonal gifts from a rel­a­tive or friend”. This pro­vi­sion, it states, does not ap­ply to gifts re­ceived on be­half of the State.

Ar­ti­cle Five states: “No pub­lic (of­fi­cial) shall use his or her of­fi­cial in­flu­ence in sup­port of any scheme or in fur­ther­ance of any con­tract or pro­posed con­tract or other mat­ter in re­gard to which he or she has an in­ter­est.”

Ar­ti­cle Six has pro­vi­sions for en­sur­ing con­fi­den­tial­ity. It pro­hibits pub­lic of­fi­cials from dis­clos­ing any in­for­ma­tion that is clas­si­fied as priv­i­leged or con­fi­den­tial, to any unau­tho­rised per­son. Ar­ti­cle Seven pro­hibits of­fi­cials from us­ing pub­lic prop­erty such as money, equip­ment, sup­plies or ser­vices for un­ap­proved pur­poses.

Ar­ti­cle Nine pro­hibits pub­lic of­fi­cials from ac­cept­ing “lav­ish or fre­quent en­ter­tain­ment” from any per­son or en­tity that the Gov­ern­ment has or may have deal­ings with. This, the Ar­ti­cle notes, in­cludes in­vi­ta­tions to sport­ing events and con­certs.

Ar­ti­cle 10 pro­hibits of­fi­cials from us­ing their of­fice in an im­proper man­ner for per­sonal gain, while the fi­nal ar­ti­cle for­bids any­one in pub­lic life from hav­ing out­side em­ploy­ment “ex­cept with the writ­ten con­sent of the rel­e­vant author­ity”.

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