Jan 14, 2012 Letters
According to your news article, “Integrity Commission – Government officials complying: Teixeira,” (January 12), Presidential Advisor on Governance, Ms. Gail Teixeira, gave the impression that the Commission is actually functioning the way it was originally designed to, but based on the reporter’s investigations, this impression is not congruous with reality.
For example, Ms. Teixeira said all members of the government submit their declarations annually in accordance with the Integrity Act, but the reality is that since Bishop Randolph George resigned as chairman in 2009, there has been no replacement named and obviously no meeting of the three other Commissioners, whoever they are.
Ms. Teixeira also stated that ex-President Bharrat Jagdeo submitted replacement names for the chairmanship and appeared to blame Opposition Leader, Mr. Robert Corbin’s refusal to accept the names offered, for the failure to name a new chairman.
As an aside, it is distressing to learn the number of areas of public life that have not functioned as constitutionally intended because of failure by Messrs. Jagdeo and Corbin or the PPP and PNC to agree.
Anyway, with no Integrity Commission Chairman since 2009, it is obvious that the Commissioners never met to deliberate and decide, so to whom have the members of government been submitting their declarations? And who exactly has been reviewing their declarations to ascertain authenticity and make recommendations for the Commissioners to act on?
Based on those two questions, I find it rather implausible that Ms. Teixeira would then claim that “there is staff as far as I am aware that would be able and astute enough to pick up where there are inconsistencies or contradictions and would be able to bring it to the Commissioners’ attention.”
To make matters worse for her truthfulness or knowledge of the reality, your reporter went to the Commission’s office to do some fact-finding, and found four persons in the office, one of whom was Secretary/CEO. This official told the reporter that, as part of his/her continued employment, s/he was sworn to secrecy and could not divulge any information about the Commission; not even the staffing strength.
However, the Secretary/CEO referred the reporter to the Commission’s website, where it states the commission will have one Chairman, three Commissioners, one Secretary/Chief Executive Officer, one Accounts Clerk, one Clerical Officer, one Receptionist/Confidential Secretary, one Office Assistant and One Cleaner/Handywoman.
Why the Secretary/CEO would say s/he is sworn to secrecy on staffing strength but refer the reporter to the Commission’s website, which explicitly states what the staffing number should be, is another matter. But it is Ms. Teixeira’s confident assertion that “there is staff…astute enough to pick up where there are inconsistencies or contradictions and would be able to bring it to the Commissioners’ attention” that undermines her credibility.
Look again at the staffing requirement and look at what the reporter found and ask yourself who exactly are the ‘astute staff members’ capable of picking up inconsistencies and contradictions in declarations of public officials.
To verify declarations of over 300 people, such staff members have to be trained, sworn to uphold the law (i.e. not take bribes to lie or cover-up), void of political partisanship and be able to travel to actually see buildings and interact with persons who have accurate knowledge of the declared assets. Does the Secretary/CEO do this? Does the Accounts Clerk do this? Does the Clerical Officer do this? Forget the rest!
Given the massive corruption that overwhelmed the Jagdeo regime and overflowed into areas of the private sector or wider society, it is clear that there was no need for a functioning Integrity Commission. No wonder many cabinet ministers and government officials could have gone from rags to riches lifestyles during the Jagdeo presidency, based on salaries incapable of such lifestyles, and this is why we need an independent, proactive Integrity Commission going forward.
But I still would have liked to learn from Bishop Randolph George what he was able to accomplish while Chairman of the Integrity Commission and why he resigned.
Was Jagdeo honest when he made those promises?
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