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Committee divided over definition of corruption

Published:Tuesday | July 28, 2015 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell

OPINIONS CLASHED on Tuesday in Gordon House when members of a joint select committee deliberating on the Integrity Commission Act held to strong positions over whether the parliamentary group should adopt the Sierra Leone definition of corruption.

Opposition senator Kamina Johnson-Smith urged members of the committee to consider making the definition of corruption more effective by incorporating the Sierra Leone classification of corruption into the Integrity Commission Act.

"When the head of the Sierra Leone Commission came to Jamaica, everyone who addressed the matter of corruption was quite clear that their approach seemed to be the best practice in terms of transforming how they were addressing corruption and the usefulness of their legislation in targeting (acts of corruption)."

However, committee chairman Senator Mark Golding resisted the proposal saying that Integrity Commission Bill did not seek to change the definition of corruption in the Corruption Prevention Act.

He said the attorney general's chambers have expressed the view that the definition of corruption in local legislation substantially complies with the United Nations Convention on Corruption.

"There is no reason to suspect that the definitions of acts of corruption in our law are deficient. I think that we are creating a phantom by saying it is somehow deficient; that is not the issue," Golding stressed.


No admin mechanism


Committee member and Minister of National Security Peter Bunting agreed with the chairman, noting that the laws dealing with corruption are adequate. "What we have not had is an administrative and investigative mechanism to apply these offences effectively - that has been the deficiency and that is what this bill intends to address," he said.

Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte said, contrary to the positions taken by some members of the committee, "there is much information in the public domain which causes me and other people to question whether the legislative definition of corruption is sufficient to deal with the acts that continue to hinder the kind of progress that we would like to have in many areas."

Contributing to the discussion, Delroy Chuck and Fitz Jackson both opined that it was not the remit of the committee to deliberate on and change the definition of corruption. However, Chuck felt that the committee should recommend that the definition of corruption be examined in the Corruption Prevention Act and other acts that define corruption.

But Golding insisted that none of the commissions of Parliament has submitted reports to the legislature complaining about the inadequacy of the definitions of corruption.