Jagdeo fails to hold Integrity Commission meeting
The promised meeting between President Bharrat Jagdeo and the Integrity Commission, slated for yesterday, did not come off as was promised by the President.
Pandit Rabindranauth Persaud, a commissioner on the Commission, did say that the Office of the Integrity Commission did convey a message to the President, asking him to signal his availability for the meeting.
He chose to make no further comment on matters of the commission, given that in his oath he had sworn to secrecy.
The matter was referred to acting chairman of the body, Fazeel Ferouz, who could not be reached because he was overseas.
The Chairman is Guyana’s Anglican Bishop, Randolph George, but he has not been acting in that capacity for close to three years.
The other member is Secretary of the Guyana Council of Churches, Nigel Hazel.
On Monday last, President Jagdeo had said, “On Wednesday (yesterday), I am meeting with them (Integrity Commission), and I will say to them that within two weeks I expect a list of all the Members of Parliament, that their names be published in the newspaper.”
He was referring to the MPs who did not declare their assets and income to the commission.
However, according to the Integrity Commission Act of Guyana, “In the exercise and discharge of its functions, the Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other persons or authority.”
The same legislation does stipulate, however, that “Where a person who is required to do so fails to file a declaration in accordance with this Act, or to furnish particulars under section 18, the Commission or the President, as the case may be, shall publish the fact in the Gazette and in a daily newspaper.”
Under the piece of legislation, there is a specific list of office holders who are required to declare assets to the Commission, and the Commissioners declare their assets to the President.
Jagdeo, on Monday last, had also said that apart from having the names of the defaulters published, they would be subject to the penalties under the Act.
According to the Act, the penalty for failing to comply is: “a fine of $25,000 and 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 $10,000 for each day on which the offence continues.”
Members of Parliament and other senior officials, who are required by law to declare their assets to the Integrity Commission, now have two weeks to do so or face the court, according to Jagdeo.
The President was responding to a recent call by the People’s National Congress to have the forensic audit of Customs officers extended to senior Government officials.
The President pointed out that such a call was unnecessary, given that there was an Integrity Commission in place for the same reason.
The President emphasised that the ultimatum was not limited to the Opposition, in that members of the Government side of the House who default will share the same fate.
On Friday last, the PNCR issued a statement calling for the forensic audit to include senior Government officials and corrupt business people.
According to the party, it has noted that the Auditor-General has confirmed that a forensic audit into the assets of employees of the Customs and Trade Administration (CTA) has been authorised, and most Guyanese would regard this as an important step in the exercise of rooting out corruption from that department.
“However, the PNCR believes that this tool would be useful in tracking down the now endemic corruption in all areas of the society.”
It added that the Auditor-General and the Jagdeo Administration should call upon those persons and entities, including those who have acquired assets which bear no relationship to their incomes and earnings, to submit to similar forensic audits.
The warning from Jagdeo as it relates to the MPs having two weeks to declare income and assets to the Integrity Commission drew a hostile response from the Alliance For Change, which stated that the President was overstepping his boundary.
According to a release that was issued by the party, the Leader of the AFC, Raphael Trotman, strongly condemned the threat of prosecution issued by President Jagdeo when he issued an ultimatum to MPs to declare their assets within two weeks, or face prosecution.
The statement, according to Trotman, has had a chilling effect and signals that the Executive branch of Government has now decided to impose its will on the Legislative branch, and also to threaten members of that branch.
“Nowhere in the free world could the head of the Executive branch issue ultimatums, threaten, and initiate criminal action against members of the Legislature…It is obvious that Jagdeo does not understand the sacred concepts of the rule of law and separation of powers, and needs to be enlightened accordingly, or has decided not to pay them any mind…
“The AFC states unapologetically that there is now the clear and unmistakable presence of a dictatorship in Guyana.”
The party emphasised that, by Act of Parliament, the Integrity Commission was established to oversee the acquisition of assets by public officials, and if there is a failure to comply, there are certain prescribed actions that the Commission may take without the instruction having to come from the President of Guyana.
Additionally, Jagdeo has to be reminded that the question of whether indeed the Integrity Commission is even properly constituted is a matter engaging the attention of the High Court.
The People’s National Congress Reform had challenged the constitutionality of the Integrity Commission, but the matter is still before the courts.
According to the Act, persons required to declared assets include: The President of Guyana, The Speaker of the National Assembly, Ministers including Ministers of State,
Secretary to the Cabinet, Parliamentary Secretaries, Members of the National Assembly, members of the National Congress of Local Democratic Organs, members of the Regional Democratic Councils, Clerk of the National Assembly, Attorney-General (if not a Member of the Cabinet), Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Director of Protocol, Office of the President; Chief of Protocol, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Permanent Secretaries and Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Ombudsman, Director of Public Prosecutions, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Solicitor-General, Deputy Solicitor-General, Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel. Auditor-General, Deputy Auditor-General, Secretary to the Treasury, Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Chief of Staff, Guyana Defence Force; Director-General, Guyana National Service; Commandant, Guyana People’s Militia; Members, Elections Commission; Members, Judicial Service Commission; Members, Public Service Commission; Members, Police Service Commission; Members, Teaching Service Commission; Members, Public Service Appellate Tribunal; Police Complaints Authority, Heads of Diplomatic Missions of Guyana accredited to any other country or any international organization, Governor, Deputy Governor and Heads of Divisions of the Bank of Guyana, Managing Directors and Managers of state-owned or controlled banks, Heads of all Government Departments, Commissioner of Lands and Surveys, Deputy Commissioner of Lands and Surveys, Commissioner of Geology and Mines, Deputy Commissioner of Geology and Mines Commissioner of Forests, Deputy Commissioner of Forests, Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Deputy Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Comptroller of Customs and Excise
Deputy Comptroller of Customs and Excise, Judges of the Supreme Court, Presidential Advisors, Magistrates, Commissioner of Title, Registrar of the Supreme Court, Registrar of Deeds, State Solicitor, Official Receiver and Public Trustee, Chief Planning Officer,
Chief Executive Officer, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, and Heads of Departments, Public Corporations Secretariat, Chairmen, Managing Directors, Chief Executive Officers, General Managers and Heads of Departments of all public corporations, and other bodies corporate and agencies (including companies and bodies established by or under any statute) owned by the State, or in which the controlling interest is vested in the State or in any agency on behalf of the State, Vice-Chancellor, Registrar, and Deans of Faculties of the University of Guyana, Registrar-General, Chief Elections Officer and Commissioner of Registration, Mayors and Deputy Mayors and Town Clerks, as well as Members of the Integrity Commission, among others.