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Anti-corruption body to keep quiet during probes

Published:Friday | July 17, 2015 | 7:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Mark Golding

The proposed new Integrity Commission, which will have the task of investigating and prosecuting acts of corruption in the public sector, will be mute whenever it conducts any probe in relation to its mandate, until a report is tabled in Parliament.

During deliberations of a joint select committee of Parliament on the Integrity Commission Act, Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding said the Office of the Contractor General has agreed with a recommendation that "no comments should be made whatsoever on an investigation".

Section 51, subsection (3) of the proposed law states that "Until the tabling in Parliament of a report under section 34, all matters under investigation by the director of investigation or any other person involved in such investigation shall be kept confidential and no report or public statement shall be made by the commission or any other person in relation to the initiation or conduct of an investigation under this Act."

Probe outside public eye

Golding told committee members yesterday during a review of the bill that the provision would ensure that "this practice in the past, where things were played out in the media while being investigated is to end, and the matter should be investigated outside of that domain and will only become part of the public domain when it is completed and tabled".

However, Opposition Senator Alexander Williams questioned whether the matter should be kept out of the public sphere, particularly if it had significant public interest.

"You are going to have a situation where the director of investigation is investigating something and working at it assiduously and then there is a public outcry: 'why isn't this matter being investigated?'It then builds to a crescendo. Should we not at least allow the director of investigation to say, without getting into details... this issue is the subject of investigation and a full report will be submitted?" he questioned.

But Golding suggested that the commissioner could issue a release to say that the commission is aware of the matter but the law does not allow the investigative body to comment on investigations until a report is made to Parliament.

"If people understand that those are the rules they must abide by, people will learn to respect that, especially if the reports that come to Parliament are well done."

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com