Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
THE GOVERNMENT is moving to legislate the maximum spending on commissions of enquiry.
A bill was yesterday tabled in the Senate to amend the Commission of Enquiry Act, which in addition to proposing maximum spending on enquiries, is seeking to increase the fines for failure to attend before a commission, from $500 to $3 million.
Highlighting the bill's Memorandum of Objects and Reasons, Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding said the proposals, among other things, sought to ensure that prior to the start of the work of the commission, the appropriate financial arrangements are made for the remuneration of commissioners, employees, and the payment of expenses of the commission.
Under the existing law, the governor general may direct what remuneration is to be paid to commissioners and any other persons employed.
The law also says the governor general may direct payment of any other expenses attendant upon the carrying out of any such commission, or upon any proceedings.
Despite the provisions, however, groups such as the Association of Finsac'd Entrepreneurs and the parliamentary Opposition have not been able to successfully lobby the governor general to instruct the Government to provide additional funding for the commissioners in the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC) commission of enquiry.
The commission of enquiry, which began sitting in September 2009, was expected to last for six months, but only wrapped up proceedings towards the end of 2012.
The commission was mandated to examine the issues surrounding the financial-sector meltdown of the 1990s when the People's National Party held power and how the crisis was handled by bail-out vehicle, FINSAC.
Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips told Parliament in June 2012 that the Government had spent J$65 million to finance the commission, and that there had been outstanding bills for rental and other costs.
He said the commissioners had asked for an additional J$20 million to complete the report.
The bill, which is now before Parliament, proposes that the financial secretary enters into an agreement with commissioners for remuneration and make arrangements for other expenses for the carrying out of the activities of the commission.
The bill also says that where the agreement provides for payment of remuneration based on time-based charges or fees, the agreement should stipulate the maximum sum that may be paid in fulfilment of the agreement. It is further proposed that the maximum sum shall not be exceeded.