Wed | Nov 22, 2017

Gov't bows to pressure, will make slight changes to anti-corruption bill

Published:Tuesday | July 25, 2017 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
Delroy Chuck

There will be slight changes to the Integrity Commission bill, an anti-corruption legislation that, in its current form, would allow Cabinet to designate as confidential any contract it chooses, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has said, following outcry from civil society and business leaders.

The House of Representatives is meeting today and Chuck said he will seek to have the House consider the 103 changes made by the Senate, which approved the legislation last week.

But, he also said, in light of the concerns triggered by The Gleaner's report yesterday, the Government will be suggesting a change to the controversial Clause 52 of the legislation that will see the establishment of a single anti-corruption agency.

"I am in discussion with the leader of government business in the Senate, Kamina Johnson Smith, and we will probably make some slight changes to it to satisfy some of the concerns that have been expressed," he told The Gleaner yesterday. "We probably will make it a little narrower than it presently is, so it may restrict government contracts to national security and international relations and in the public interest."

"Those are the contracts which I think that the Cabinet should have that authority to say 'It is in the public's best interest that they should not be investigated.'"

Saying his administration inherited the legislation with the contentious clause from the previous administration, Chuck said he was "very surprised" that Mark Golding, the leader of opposition business in the Senate, raised issues about it last week.

Under Clause 52, the director of investigations must get permission to probe contracts and licences relating to equipment provision for the security forces. It also includes a third part that gives the Cabinet the power to make confidential any contracts it "determines", and to probe those will also require permission from the Cabinet secretary.

National Integrity Action, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and civil-society activist Jeanette Calder have said the provisions are "unacceptable" and should be removed.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com