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Portia bowing to pressure to release records shows why law needs to change quickly - Munroe

Published:Thursday | June 30, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Trevor Munroe, anti-corruption campaigner, says the fact that public pressure has seemingly forced Portia Simpson Miller, opposition leader, to be taking steps to release her financials, is further reason for the laws to be amended quickly to ensure that key public figures are mandated to release their financial records.

Simpson Miller's impending release follows that of her People's National Party (PNP) colleague and member of parliament Julian Robinson and that of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, whose records were demanded by Opposition Spokesman on Finance Dr Peter Phillips.

Phillips has given no indication whether he will voluntarily release his.

Yesterday, Simpson Miller, who, like Holness, missed self-imposed deadlines in relation to the records, outlined how her documents would be released.

The Office of the Leader of the Opposition released a letter dated June 29, 2016, which it said was sent to Justice Paul Harrison, chairman of the Integrity Commission, notifying the office of Simpson Miller's "intention" to release copies of her filings over the last 10 years.

"I am requesting that through you, Sir, the commission releases to me certified or stamped copies of my integrity reports submitted for the years 2006 to 2015," Simpson Miller asked.

Simpson Miller, a member of parliament since 1976 except for the period 1983-1989, became prime minister in 2006.

But she has asked for more.

"I also request that the commission indicate to me in writing the dates the reports were received and whether or not I have ever been reported for any breaches."

The statement said, "Once the reports are received, the opposition leader will release the documents to the media appropriately redacted to remove sensitive details."

Munroe told The Gleaner that the anti-corruption agency he leads, National Integrity Action, "welcomes every single step towards greater transparency and higher levels of accountability in our governance arrangements".

But Professor Munroe, a former senator and general election candidate for the PNP, said there was even greater need for the laws to be amended speedily since the release of the financials were being done after mounting public pressure.

"The political leaders appear to be responding more to public requirements or public requests for greater transparency. This, in our view, makes even more urgent the amendments to the Integrity Commission bill that would make it mandatory in an appropriate form for all the statutory declarations to be disclosed," he said.

Holness has indicated that he will be pushing for the amendments to mandate the public release of financials by the prime minister, the opposition leader, the finance minister, and his opposition counterpart.

Days after Holness released his records to a select media group similar to Robinson, Phillips suggested that it was not enough and questioned whether the documents had been verified by the NIA.

Phillips gave new life to the issue when in the lead-up to the general election, he questioned how Holness was funding his house in Beverly Hills, St Andrew.

The prime minister's records, which cover the period 2007-2015, show that he has assets of approximately $152 million and liabilities of J$34.4 million.