Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Editorial | Dirk should prosecute existing cases

Published:Thursday | May 24, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Karl Harrison, the chairman of the recently-promulgated Integrity Commission, has named the acting heads of the three divisions that will be critical to the work, and ultimately, the success of the commission. Unfortunately, Justice Harrison stopped short of providing a programmatic and scheduled plan for which we had asked and which we believe the public, including the employees of the three agencies that his commission will subsume, deserve.

Nonetheless, even in the absence of an executive director and the fact that the announced appointments are interim, there is a framework within which the commission can begin its work, which this newspaper will follow closely to determine the robustness, or lack thereof, with which it undertakes its mission. In this regard, we observe an immediate upside, as well as a downside in the organisation.

Until his agency was subsumed by the Integrity Commission, Dirk Harrison was the contractor general, a body that had oversight for the award and execution of Jamaica government contracts to ensure that the process was fair and without corruption. Mr Harrison has the reputation of a robust and fearless investigator, who, like his predecessor, sometimes publicly complained, and is known to believe that cases he made were too often not prosecuted.

Mr Harrison has been named to act until there is a permanent appointment, as director of corruption prosecution in the new agency. It is a job, that, on the face of it, will allow him to independently prosecute investigated corruption cases, subject only to the constitutional powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to intervene in, or take over, any criminal matter that is before the courts, as well as the requirement of the act that he follow prosecutorial protocols established by the DPP. These, and any other procedural limitations, notwithstanding, we urge Mr Harrison to fully test the extent of his powers. He should proceed with the prosecution of cases he previously investigated, but which appear to be stranded in prosecutorial purgatory.

That's the upside. The downside is that Dirk Harrison, it appears, is lost to the investigative side of the Integrity Commission.

The work, and ultimately, the success of the commission, including the quality of the cases that its prosecutor can take to court, will be substantially dependent on the calibre of the investigation with which they are underpinned. We make no judgement about either the skills, or competence of David Grey, who is the acting head of the new body's investigation division. He was formerly the secretary/manager of the Corruption Prevention Commission, which, hitherto, was responsible for policing corruption among public servants, the bulk of whom failed to file their annual assets and liability reports. That commission complained of how few persons were prosecuted.

Even taking into account the greater independence of action and the relatively few matters the role demanded Dirk Harrison pursue, what was refreshing about him was the sense of mission he brought to the job of contractor general. And which we would like to see replicated by the top investigator at the Integrity Commission.

These are considerations Justice Harrison, and his fellow commissioners must take into account when making recommendations for permanent appointments to the various divisions in the new agency, including that of its executive director. Institutions often derive their personalities from the individual who leads them and, or becomes their public faces, which the executive director of the Integrity Commission has the potential to become. In this regard, the commission should avoid somnolence.