…Draft Code to be merged with Integrity Act – PM Nagamootoo
By Kiana Wilburg
After the finishing touches have been added, the Integrity Act is expected to be “the new home” for Government’s Code of Conduct. This is according to Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo.
The code states, among other things, that public officials should desist from accepting lavish or frequent entertainment from persons with whom the government has official dealings- including from suppliers or contractors, clubs and persons to which the state may allocate resources or job assignments.
The First Vice President told Kaieteur News that the Code of Conduct draft is currently with the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel. He said that he received an update yesterday that work is still being done on it. It is to be returned quite soon.
Nagamootoo said that the draft will be incorporated into the Integrity Act which already provides for the declaration of assets and gifts by Government Ministers, Members of Parliament, Permanent Secretaries and other senior public officials.
“This is already in the law. The Code of Conduct is not something that is entirely new. But what happened of late is that, we established a broad-based team to look at current legislation in the world so that we could update and bring our draft on par with international standards,” expressed the Prime Minister.
He added, “So this (the draft) will supplement the existing Code within the (Integrity) legislation. This is being done because if you have a Code of Conduct standing by itself, it is likely that it will suffer from lack of enforcement…”
The Prime Minister believes that having it within the Integrity Act would reinforce the ability to institute penalties etc.
“So we believe from the recommendations that the new home for the Code is within the Integrity Act,” he added.
The draft document speaks to disciplinary actions or terminations for those named in the draft Code.
It also addresses the acceptance of gifts of more than $10,000, conflict of interests, accountability and even gambling.
The code would be crucial for the David Granger administration which campaigned for the May 11, 2015 General Elections, on promises that it will be making sweeping changes to improve the behaviour of public officials.
In the past, there were little or no actions against public officials despite reported evidence. These infringements included discharging a firearm, drunk driving and trading on insider information.
The purpose of the code is to assist Ministers, Members of Parliament and public office holders in the discharge of their obligations to their constituents and the public at large.
“It provides guidance on the values – the moral qualities – that should govern the conduct of Ministers and Members of Parliament in discharging their Parliamentary and public duties. It is also meant to reinforce public confidence in the way Ministers and public office holders perform those duties.”
It was made clear that public office holders are duty bound by the code in all aspects of their public life. The code, however, does not seek to regulate the conduct of public office holders in their private and personal lives.
According to the draft, “Public office holders have a duty to uphold the law, including the general law against discrimination and sexual harassment, and to act with propriety on all occasions in accordance with the public trust and confidence placed in them. Public office holders have a general duty to act in the interest of the nation as a whole, and owe a special duty of care to their constituents, and citizens.”
The draft code lists the 10 principles of public life – accountability, dignity, diligence, duty, honour, integrity, loyalty, objectivity, responsibility and transparency.
Regarding accountability, the draft code proposes that public office holders are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions, and must submit themselves to scrutiny and criticism.
The officials, it says, must also conduct themselves in a manner that is worthy of the respect of their peers and the public and be effective, efficient, courteous and reliable in the performance of their duties.
With regard to duty, the draft code stated that public officials owe a duty to the country “and must consider themselves servants of the people”.
Of course, the issue of integrity was dealt with. “Public office holders have a duty to declare any private interest relating to the discharge of their duties and responsibilities, and to ensure that their personal decisions and actions are not in conflict with the national interest.
“Public office holders should display allegiance to the state and should show concern for the well-being of the persons that they were elected to represent.”
In the area of responsibility, the draft code stated that Ministers collectively have a basic responsibility to make decisions only in the national interest void of any forms of personal gain, or other material benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
Regarding the actions, the code said that Ministers should be open about all their public decisions and actions and be prepared to provide explanations when so demanded by the public.
When it comes to accepting gifts, it is being proposed that public officials consider declining such gratuities if the acceptance of same could have an effect on their objectivity and lead to complaints of bias or impropriety.
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