Senate gives OK to single anti-corruption agency
A single anti-corruption agency with powers to investigate and prosecute is closer to being established as an almost decade-long push got Senate approval this afternoon.
The Integrity Commission bill was approved with 103 amendments and comes almost six months after the House of Representatives gave it the OK.
The House is scheduled to meet next week where it could agree to the Senate's changes, paving the way for the bill to be signed by the governor general and then gazetted, completing the lawmaking process.
Some of the changes made by the Senate include the removal of the experiment to have the Parliament approve the appointment of the commissioners to head the agency created by the merging of the Office of the Contractor General, the Parliament's Integrity Commission - which only deals with parliamentarians - and the Corruption Prevention Commission - which deals with civil servants.
Kamina Johnson Smith
Kamina Johnson Smith, leader of government business in the Senate, who piloted the bill, said last week that it was decided to go the usual route of appointments which is through the governor general following consultation with the prime minister and the opposition leader and not saddle a new entity with a similarly new system of appointments.
A new clause was also inserted that will see the appointment of an executive director who will be responsible for the day-to-day management of affairs of the agency that will also be given powers to investigate and prosecute corruption cases.
The Government rejected a proposal from the Opposition to remove a provision from the Integrity Commission bill that would require the approval of the Cabinet Secretary for the anti-corruption agency to investigate certain government contracts.
The Senate debate on the bill started some weeks ago and wrapped today.
Though coloured in parts by partisan rhetoric, Government and Opposition senators lamented that laws by themselves will not solve the country's corruption problem.
Government Senator Matthew Samuda
Matthew Samuda, a government member, noted that there is much more to be done to address the perception of corruption in public governance.