No need to worry says Justice Minister
JUSTICE MINISTER Mark Golding has sought to allay fears that proposed changes to the operations of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) would undermine the independence of the oversight body.
A joint select committee of Parliament, which has been reviewing the INDECOM Act, has proposed the creation of a non-executive review board that would oversee the operations of the five-year-old body.
Yesterday, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding took issue with the proposal, arguing that it does not appear to be in keeping with INDECOM's independence as mandated by Section 5 of the legislation governing its operation.
Section 5 stipulates that "the commission shall not be subjected to the direction or control of any person or authority."
"The commission is, therefore, fettered only by law and the Constitution," Golding argued in a letter to this newspaper yesterday.
"If this intrusion is permissible, would the Government not, therefore, be at liberty to establish a review board for the director of public prosecutions or the auditor general, who are similarly not subject to the direction or control of any person or authority," he reasoned.
But responding to the former prime minister, the justice minister said that concern is based on a misunderstanding of the proposal.
He explained that in keeping with the proposed reforms INDECOM would be given corporate status and, as a result, should have a board that its management reports to.
"The idea is not that INDECOM is going to be subject to any external oversight. The idea is that INDECOM, as an entity, will have a proper governance structure within it," the justice minister sought to explain.
He noted that there is precedence for this, pointing to the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, which has a board of commissioners.
The justice minister reiterated that there is no need for INDECOM to have all its authority vested in a single individual, arguing that "it can have a board, like other corporations and bodies corporate do, and still be a commission of Parliament."
But in urging the Government to rethink the proposal, the former prime minister said it raises serious issues of concern about appointments by the governor general and the sovereignty of Parliament.
"The mechanism for the appointment to sensitive posts by the governor general, acting on his own discretion, evolved out of the painful experience of government control and interference in areas that require independence and non-partisanship. It is not clear who would appoint the [INDECOM] review board, but the proposal runs the danger of undermining that principle," Golding wrote.
In addition, the former prime minister noted that commissions of Parliament are directly accountable to that body and questions how lawmakers can "delegate that responsibility to a group of non-parliamentarians".