Senator says lack of evidence means corruption label unfair to politicians
Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
AFTER 41 years of operation, the Integrity Commission was yesterday challenged by Government Senator Lambert Brown to declare why more politicians are not cited for corruption by the oversight body despite the strong perception in the society that parliamentarians are corrupt.
"For 41 years, this commission has existed to ferret out corruption but has not been able to find one case. And I believe that politicians are bearing an unfair label of being corrupt, without any evidence to support that, and I don't buy the view that perception is sufficient for me to walk around with a label," Brown charged during a meeting of a joint select committee to review the Integrity Commission 2014.
No proof of innocence
Justice Paul Harrison, chairman of the Integrity Commission, told the committee that the absence of a conviction or prosecution could not provide absolute proof of innocence and honesty on the part of parliamentarians over the years.
Harrison said the commission was more concerned with compliance than with finding wrongdoers.
He pointed out that the commission has consistently asked for additional resources such as another investigator and a financial analyst, but the request has not been satisfied.
The head of the Integrity Commission also indicated that if forensic analysts and more financial forensic investigators were attached to the commission, "it might help us to ferret out where there is any anomaly
between a person's income and the assets as declared".
However, Brown questioned whether the commission - had failed in effectively carrying out its mandate over its four decades of existence.
Golding defends commission
Committee chairman Senator Mark Golding rushed to the defence of the commission, saying it effectively operated in silos as it did not have access to sensitive information - which was filed elsewhere in the public system - such as income tax returns.
At the same time, he said investigators of corruption offences have not been able to get information out of the Integrity Commission.
"It's a ludicrous situation and this bill addresses that by allowing the free flow of information between competent authorities."
In his comments, Delroy Chuck said while he was Speaker of the House of Representatives he discovered that the commission had carried out a lot of work to ferret out information from MPs.
"As Speaker of the House, when I got these reports, I was the first to go to individual members on both sides and say, 'Please comply with the commission'. The public doesn't know this, so they feel that the Integrity Commission has found nothing, when I know nearly every one of us will get letters from you (the Integrity Commission chairman) asking us to explain various bits of income, various bits of what may appear to be enrichment."
He urged the commission to divest itself of the secrecy within which it operates so that the public could be apprised of the work it is doing.