Tue | Aug 11, 2020

Panton slams lawmakers

Published:Thursday | July 9, 2020 | 12:26 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Integrity Commission Chairman Justice (Ret’d) Seymour Panton.
Integrity Commission Chairman Justice (Ret’d) Seymour Panton.

Chairman of the Integrity Commission, retired Justice Seymour Panton, has slammed lawmakers for passing a statute that gives no clear directive to commissioners of the anti-corruption oversight body in relation to the filing of their statutory declarations.

At the inaugural sitting of the Integrity Commission Oversight Committee (ICOC) on Tuesday, Everald Warmington raised questions about the filing of statutory declarations by commissioners and staff of the Integrity Commission. He charged that commissioners should not submit evidence of their income and assets to the Integrity Commission, noting that this could constitute a conflict of interest.

However, Panton contended that lawmakers need to examine legislation properly before passing them.

“It is outrageous that a member of parliament should be asking something like that when Parliament, including the member, passed the law,” the former president of the Court of Appeal observed.

A no-nonsense Panton scolded the parliamentarians for what appears to be a glaring omission in the Integrity Commission Act.

“When legislators are passing law, they need to examine the laws properly, and they should not be the ones to go into Parliament and ask stupid questions about the legislation that they passed,” the commission’s chairman told The Gleaner.

SOUGHT AG’S OPINION

He explained that the Integrity Commission Act was not clear as to whether commissioners should file annual declarations of income and assets.

“And we have taken it upon ourselves to ask the attorney general to interpret the legislation in that regard,” said Panton, who revealed that the request was made a few weeks ago.

“I don’t have to wait on the interpretation. I decided that I am filing, and there are other people who have filed, but I am not going to be speaking for them,” he added. “I filed, and I have no problem with anybody seeing what I filed.”

On Tuesday, Warmington suggested that members of the anti-corruption agency should submit their statutory declarations to an independent body for review.

He argued that the auditor general was a member of the Integrity Commission, and as such, she should be excluded from reviewing the statutory declarations of the oversight body.

Fellow ICOC member Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte indicated that the oversight committee should get the views of members of the commission on what should be in place to satisfy the concerns raised by Warmington.

In its annual report, Panton observed that all parliamentarians had, for the first in a long time, filed their statutory declarations on time.

He warned that public officials who are required to file statutory declarations and fail to comply would be prosecuted.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com