…contrary to the President’s assertion – Corbin
Contrary to what President Bharrat Jagdeo had said about declarations to the Integrity Commission, and that leader of the People’s National Congress Reform, Robert Corbin was submitting his declaration of assets to the Integrity Commission, the Opposition Leader says that that is far from the truth.
Corbin, during the most recent sitting of the National Assembly, told the House that the President’s assertion was wrong in that he never declared anything to what he called an “unconstitutional and unlawful commission”.
Robert Corbin is on record as saying that his party had instructed its Members of Parliament not to make submissions to the Integrity Commission until the court determines the legality in the setting-up of the Commission.
Corbin mounted a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Commission in May 2005, but the matter has not yet had a hearing.
In the absence of this, Corbin said, his party’s Members of Parliament have been told to make sure their documents are in order, but not to submit them until a determination of the case.
Following the PNCR position on the legality of the Commission, the President had ordered the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, to commence consultations aimed at resuscitating the Integrity Commission.
The President and Corbin have since been consulting on who the members of the new commission would be, with Corbin requesting the Curriculum Vitae’s of the persons recommended.
Under the Integrity Commission Act of 1997, “the Chairman (of the Integrity Commission) shall be a person who is or who was, or who is qualified to be appointed as, a Puisne Judge of the High Court or any other fit and proper person…
“The other members shall be appointed from among persons appearing to the President to be qualified as having had experience of, and shown capacity in law, administration of justice, public administration, social service, finance or accountancy or any other discipline…
“The chairman and other members shall be appointed by the President after consultation with the Minority Leader… The chairman and other members may be appointed as either full-time or part-time… The names of the chairman and other members of the Commission as first constituted and every change in the membership thereof shall be published in the Gazette and in a daily newspaper…
“The Commission shall be a body corporate.”
As it relates to the extension of the two-week deadline for Members of Parliament to declare their assets and income to the Integrity Commission, Corbin said that the President never had any authority to give an ultimatum.
On January 19, President Jagdeo had declared that MPs who are required by law to declare their assets to the Integrity Commission had two weeks to do so or face the court.
Jagdeo subsequently took on a different approach wherein he said that he would grant an extension, given the reconstitution of the Commission.
According to the President, he had observed the recent politicking that has been taking place as a result of his declaration, and he does not want anyone to have any excuses.
He has consequently ordered Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, to ensure that the commission is fully resuscitated, hence the extension.
“I suspect that some members may have some things to hide,” said the President, while pointing out that during a recent forum one individual had suggested that she did not want the nation to know what the income or assets of her husband are.
The President, however, was adamant that the declaration of income and assets was mandatory under the Integrity Commission Act of 1997.
“One would think that my comment would be a catalyst for the defaulters to comply with the law… Unfortunately, this has been used as a political football.”
According to the President, the law was passed with a view to ensuring that there was no corruption in public life.
The Integrity Commission that Corbin deems unconstitutional comprises the Chairman, Bishop Randolph George; Secretary of the Guyana Council of Churches, Nigel Hazel; and President of the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana, Fazeel Ferouz.
Bishop Randolph George had tendered his resignation in 2006, but this was never accepted by the President, who on Monday said that he suspected that the Bishop had been bullied into that position.
According to the Integrity Commission Act, “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 this 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.
According to the Act, the penalty for failing to comply is “a fine of $25,000 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.”
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