– But PM assures corrective action in the pipeline
While the Government has given itself a pat on the back for making a number of strides in
some areas, it is yet to set itself apart from its predecessor when it comes to the functioning of the Integrity Commission. It has been two years into the administration’s reign and the nation still remains without an active Integrity Commission.
Contacted yesterday for an update on the matter, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo said that while he can acknowledge this state of affairs, he is making an effort to correct it.
In this regard, the First Vice President said, “The Integrity Law says that the Prime Minister shall recommend names to the President, and if I get another two to three days I should be able to put my list of recommendations to him. I am working on it. I am working on recommendations to the President.”
Nagamootoo also stated that he is still looking at possible amendments to the Integrity Commission Act.
“At the moment there is no functioning Integrity Commission. There is no Chairman and no functioning body. There is probably one surviving member. I have to take a look at the composition, and see who the existing members are. So I am trying to put a list of names to be sent to the President.”
The principle behind the declaration of assets to the Integrity Commission by senior public officers is to ensure that they do not acquire large amounts of cash or property without proper justification to the nation. With the Commission not functioning, it is yet to fulfill this fundamental code which led to its creation.
This state of affairs was heavily criticized by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) when the two parties served in the political opposition.
It was since last September that Minister of State Joseph Harmon, said the Integrity Commission would soon be able to do more than just collect statements from politicians regarding their accumulated wealth.
Harmon said that that the coalition government was examining the mandate of the Commission with the aim of giving it powers to investigate the truthfulness of such declarations.
The Minister asserted that the government was and still is, of the opinion that the Commission does not have enough power to enforce any of its decisions.
He had said, “Public officials would just submit statements to the Commission and there was no clear procedure as to what happens after that. We need to ensure that there is some mechanism within the law to allow for follow-ups.
“I discussed this matter with the CEO of the Commission. I told him that there are models in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and all across the Caribbean region where submissions to the Commission are subjected to further scrutiny.”
Harmon continued, “So when you go and say you’ve got one house when you actually have 12 others across the country and the Commission does not have the capacity to investigate that, then it is a waste of time. This is what we had in the past. Statements are taken to the Commission and then there is no follow-up. We want a Commission that has the capacity to follow-up when statements are made by public officers and action needs to be taken.”
The Minister of State had said the Commission has been operating without a Chairman and Commissioners for years. He reminded that there were some names of Commissioners recommend during the Tenth Parliament, but they were not appointed by the then-President, Donald Ramotar. He said that in such a case, the matter will therefore have to go back to the National Assembly for new persons to be recommended and appointed.
Harmon said that for the time being, the Integrity Commission is functioning with a very small staff with a very limited budget.
In addition, he had said that proper investigations should be conducted to ascertain how Government Ministers and other public officials acquire their wealth.
Under the laws, public officers including the President, Permanent Secretaries, Director of Public Prosecutions, Auditor General, Commissioner of Police, the Army Chief, Heads of the Service Commissions, Foreign Affairs officials, Judges and Magistrates and Department Heads are required to declare their assets.
Also required to submit declaration forms of their earnings and gifts received are Regional Executive Officers, the Chief Elections Officer, Mayors, Chairpersons and Chief Executive Officers of state companies, Registrars of Lands and the Commissioner-General of Guyana Revenue Authority, along with Presidential Advisors, and Heads of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and Guyana Forestry Commission.
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