Integrity at stake - Anti-corruption watchdog group dissatisfied with Integrity Commission’s latest report
At least one anti-corruption watchdog agency is dissatisfied with the recently tabled Integrity Report, noting the lack of information on the financial status of parliamentarians, which the group said could give rise to unnecessary speculation.
There was high expectation of the Integrity Commission’s Annual Report for 2018-19 – which was tabled in Parliament on Friday – regarding whether the commission had cleared previously cited politicians, who, for various reasons, did not pass integrity standards.
Among those who were not cleared in a previous report tabled by the commission was Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
Yesterday, Professor Trevor Munroe, executive director of National Integrity Action (NIA), told The Sunday Gleaner that “previous reports from the commission, including before the amalgamation and even its 2017 report, had included appendices naming members of Parliament who were in breach and had referred them to the director of public prosecutions for action”.
He continued, “Clearance of statutory declarations of MPs and public officials is not an administrative issue but is an essential requirement to ensure that their income and assets are legitimately acquired and not the result of ‘illicit enrichment’, a major offence under Jamaica’s anti-corruption law and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption”.
The Integrity Commission’s latest report has noted that the majority of the statutory declarations for the year 2018 were submitted during the month of March 2019. Thirty-six statutory declarations were examined, of which only eight did not necessitate any additional queries.
The report also noted that two new financial investigation cases were opened regarding members of Parliament (MPs). However, their names were not revealed.
“Transparency demands that the public be told who are the two MPs in relation to whom new investigations have been opened concerning possible statutory declaration offences and illicit enrichment,” stated Munroe.
GOVERNMENT SUPPORTS INTEGRITY COMMISSION
Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Robert Morgan, in reacting to the report, is insisting that Holness was current with his filing and touted support for the work of the commission.
“The prime minister continues to be current with his filings to the commission and has fulfilled his obligations to the Integrity Commission both in this instance and historically,” said Morgan.
“The Government fully supports the work of the Integrity Commission in building the institutional framework to deal with issues of accountability, transparency, and probity.”
He continued, “The landmark passage of the new integrity legislation and the securing of the independence of the commission, led by this administration, will encourage confidence in our system of governance and allow the commission to effectively execute its mandate.”
“We continue to take the necessary legislative and budgetary actions to enhance the work of the Integrity Commission and are confident in the professionalism and competence of the commissioners.”
In the meantime, Integrity Commission Chairman Karl Harrison underscored that comprehensive investigations into the financial affairs of parliamentarians and public officials required high-level professional staff in the field of forensic and investigative accountancy.
The issue of compensation for the commissioners was also raised in the report.
“Compensation for the commissioners also requires the approval of the Oversight Committee. We are surprised that to date, there has been no determination as regards our compensation. We understand that the process of getting a recommended compensation structure is still being pursued, so we are yet to receive any emoluments in relation to our roles as commissioners,” Harrison said in his remarks in the report.
NIA’S ISSUES WITH INTEGRITY COMMISSION’S ANNUAL REPORT FOR 2018-19
1. Transparency demands that the public be told who the two MPs are in relation to whom new investigations have been opened concerning possible statutory declaration offences and illicit enrichment. p. 39.
2. As it relates to the 2017 Integrity Commission Report naming five currently serving MPs, including Prime Minister Holness, as having statutory declarations “not cleared”, a conclusion repeated in the Integrity Commission’s recent press conference, in spite of reports that the PM had provided “further information to the Integrity Commission”, an explanation is needed as to why no prosecution or criminal proceedings were initiated during the year.
3. When was the Petrojam report completed and when will it be forwarded to the Director of Corruption Prosecution? p. 34
4. It is unacceptable that the commissioners have not been paid. This must immediately be corrected otherwise it can be construed as potentially affecting their independence.
5. NIA strongly supports the recommendation of the commissioners that Section 53, impeding the commission’s transparency, be amended to ensure greater openness to the public.
6. Section 42 (3)(b) requires summaries of the statutory declarations – income and assets – of both the PM and the leader of the opposition to be published. When will this be done?