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Opposition calls for review of Integrity Commission Act

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

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LESS than 15 months after it came into operation, the legislation governing the highly acclaimed corruption watchdog body — the Integrity Commission Act — may have to be further reviewed.

This follows the decision of Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips to table a resolution in the House of Representatives yesterday, seeking a further review of the Act, which was passed with 107 amendments in 2017. The new body came into effect in February last year.

The commission was forced to call a press conference to Monday to respond to issues relating to its treatment of an investigation into the sale of the Rooms on the Beach resort property by the Government, as well as concerns raised about the fact that several sitting members of parliament, from both major political parties, have not been fulfilling the requirements in respect of their statutory reports filed for 2016.

In his motion tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday, Dr Phillips asked that the House of Representatives agree that:

1) Having regard to the various statements, observations, criticisms and events mentioned and the ensuing controversy, in an effort to avoid the erosion of confidence in the commission, a review of the Act be undertaken by a Joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament;

2) The Parliament, in consultation with the leader of the House, establish such a committee on the usual basis; and

3) The Joint Select Committee be mandated to seek submissions from interested civil society groups and members of the public generally, and to report with recommendations for amendments to the Act to strengthen and empower the commission to better achieve the objectives of the Act and engender confidence in the commission.

Phillips said that this was necessary, whereas certain provisions of the legislation — particularly Section 53 (3) relating to disclosures and public statements by the commission included for the purpose of confidentiality, which were supported by both sides of the Parliament — have in practice now appear to be inconsistent with the objective of transparency in the functioning of the commission.

The Integrity Commission Act received the governor general's assent on October 23, 2017 and came into operation on February 22, 2018.

The Act effectively combines the functions of three “Legacy Agencies” — The Integrity Commission, which received and reviewed financial returns of parliamentarians; the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, which received and reviewed the financial returns of public servants; and the Office of the Contractor General, which monitored the award and execution of Government contracts.

The commission is chaired by retired jurist Justice Karl Harrison.


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