Public servants to face stiffer fines for non-filing of assets
Tougher penalties have been recommended for public servants who fail to make annual declarations of their assets and liabilities under the proposed Integrity Commission Act.
A joint select committee of Parliament deliberating the Integrity Commission Act, which seeks to consolidate the laws relating to the prevention of corruption, wants delinquent public servants to be fined $100,000 for not making their declarations within the stipulated time.
The committee is also proposing that if the delinquent public official continues to violate the law by not declaring his assets and liabilities, such a person should be subject to ongoing monthly fines so long as he refuses to make the declaration.
The committee indicated that the intent is to make it a disincentive for public servants to flout the law with impunity by refusing to file annual reports to the designated oversight body even after being dragged before the courts and fined.
Committee member Senator Alexander Williams said that public servants who have not declared their assets and liabilities to the commission and are prosecuted, especially, repeat offenders, should be earmarked for investigation by the oversight body.
"The purpose is that you are trying to reduce corruption, and if you have a civil servant or member of parliament and even a repeat offender who, over two to three years, is going to court paying the fines but is not doing his declaration, I would suggest that this is something that should be investigated," he said.
However, National Security Minister Peter Bunting reasoned that the approach recommended by Williams might be useless as the commission would not have any information in relation to the person's assets and liabilities on which it could carry out an investigation.
"If they have never made declarations, you can't say that between year one and year three their assets grew disproportionately to their incomes and, therefore, they have a case to answer," Bunting argued.
Opposition Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte noted that the legislation was established to ensure that public servants live within their means and do not benefit from illicit enrichment.
"A corrupt public servant who fails to disclose to satisfy the authorities that I am living lawfully would have a red flag raised against his name. You fail to file, it becomes and offence. You fail to file after you have been notified, it becomes an offence. You are convicted, you still can't be compelled to file."
She said where there is every reason on prima facie to suspect that such a public servant is corrupt and he or she had every opportunity to satisfy the authorities otherwise, steps should be taken to fire that person from the public service.