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Anti-corruption law gets the nod - Holness says Gov't couldn't delay passage any longer

Published:Tuesday | January 31, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell

Despite a grey area as to who will be the spokesman or the head of the new Integrity Commission, the House of Representatives yesterday passed the long-awaited Integrity Commission Act to establish a single anti-corruption body to investigate and prosecute corruption in Jamaica.

The new body will have three commissioners heading the administration, investigation and corruption prosecution divisions.

In his contribution to the debate, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said while recognising that the statute was "not perfect", the Government could not delay its passage any longer.

Acknowledging that the Government was slow in passing law to tackle corruption, the prime minister said this was a contributory factor to Jamaica falling 14 places on the Corruption Perception Index.

"The Government is not pleased with our present rating in the Transparency International report," Holness declared.

He said that the administration would be doing everything in its power to regain ground.

Highlighting a critical provision in the bill, Holness said that the director of corruption prosecution will not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority, with the exception of the director of public prosecutions.

"... It doesn't have to be all talk, media and just trying to embarrass people into action now. There is real power to take real action when there is real evidence of corruption," he emphasised.

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte, in her remarks, recommended that Parliament establish a select committee to provide oversight for the new Integrity Commission, as well as the other commissions of Parliament.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck advised the House that he would be having dialogue with his counterpart, Senator Mark Golding, to determine who will become the chief spokesperson for the new anti-corruption agency.

The new Integrity Commission Act will consolidate the laws relating to the prevention of corruption and the award and monitoring of government contracts by establishing a single commission to investigate and prosecute acts of corruption.

The bill was passed by the House of Representatives with three amendments.