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Committee turns down civil suit remedy for false complaint

Published:Wednesday | December 16, 2015 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell

A parliamentary committee has set aside a recommendation by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), which wanted a provision in the Integrity Commission Act, 2014, giving the subject of a false complaint the right to file a civil suit and not be prevented by confidentiality provisions in the bill.

A joint select committee of Parliament, which considered the proposed law, had argued that the commission is protected from civil liability once it carries out its duties in good faith.

However, the committee pointed out that the shield from civil liability would not apply if the Integrity Commission had acted out of malice or had been grossly negligent.

Under the proposed law, a person who makes a false complaint would be guilty of an offence.

In its report to Parliament, which was tabled last Friday, the committee contended that the balance struck in the bill was appropriate.

The Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), in its submission to the committee that deliberated on the bill last year, had recommended that persons who made false complaints deliberately to the commission should face an increased penalty of $10 million, or five years' imprisonment.

to discourage frivolous complaints

However, the committee acknowledged that while the JCSA's concerns were valid, the bill strikes a reasonable balance in imposing a penalty that discourages frivolous complaints but is not a deterrent to complainants.

The committee recommended that a fine of $1 million and jail time of one year remain in the bill.

The Integrity Commission Act has been crafted with a view to establishing a single anti-corruption agency as a commission of Parliament, to be designated the Integrity Commission.

This single anti-corruption body is expected to take over the functions of the Integrity Commission, established under the Parliament (Integrity of Members) Act, the commission for the Prevention of Corruption, and the Office of the Contractor General.

Its principal responsibility will be to prosecute acts of corruption, subject to the constitutional authority of the director of public prosecutions.

Five commissioners will be appointed to head the new entity, and the functions will be spread across administrative, investigative, and prosecutorial divisions, which are to be led by divisional heads.

It is believed that the establishment of the new oversight body will facilitate a more coordinated approach and efficient use of available resources in combating corruption.