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Distant urges vigilance on Integrity Commission referrals

Published:Wednesday | August 11, 2021 | 12:10 AM
Lloyd Distant.
Lloyd Distant.

President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Lloyd Distant has indicated that if a decision has been made to prosecute parliamentarians who have breached the Integrity Commission Act and this was akin to a charge and arrest being made, the public should know who the wrongdoers are.

Distant was asked to respond to the latest developments in the Integrity Commission’s annual report, regarding two parliamentarians who had been referred to the Director of Corruption Prosecution Keisha Prince for prosecution.

The JCC president said now that a referral has been made, his organisation would have to inform itself of the next steps that must be taken in relation to the prosecution, within what timeline and if they have, in fact, done it.

“Somebody now needs to ensure that whatever is reported by the Integrity Commission that the next steps are taken and it’s either you doing prosecution or the people are rectifying it or whatever it is; we need to keep vigilance on this,” Distant said in a Gleaner interview yesterday.

On the issue of calling names, Distant said that if the process was “akin to someone being arrested and it is public then, ‘yes, we need to know’”.

As the country awaits a decision from Prince, 18 Degrees North Journalist Zahra Burton sought responses on Monday from Prime Minister Andrew Holness during a virtual press briefing on COVID-19.

She first asked Holness if he had been informed by the Integrity Commission of the parliamentarians who had been referred for prosecution regarding their statutory declarations.

Additionally, Burton asked: “Could you rule out for the Jamaican public that you and or your wife are not being referred for prosecution?”

However, when Holness returned to the lectern, Press Secretary Naomi Francis said, “Any other question relating to other matters I believe the appropriate authorities would be able to respond, so I would refer our reporter there. Prime Minister, your final comments on COVID issue.”

The prime minister did not respond to the question posed by Burton.

The Integrity Commission is constrained by Section 53 (3) of the Integrity Commission Act which places a gag on directors of the anti-corruption body preventing them from commenting on any probe until a report is tabled in Parliament.

The commission, in its most recent annual report, has reiterated its call for lawmakers to grant the corruption watchdog the authority to comment on investigations with respect to Section 53(3) which deals with confidentiality regarding all matters under investigation.

In its annual report the commission not only reported that two parliamentarians have been referred for prosecution for allegedly providing false information to the Integrity Commission in their statutory declarations but that two lawmakers were also being investigated for illicit enrichment.

The Sunday Gleaner recently reported that a total of 30 parliamentarians have given definitive answers to the question of whether they are aware of a probe by the Integrity Commission into their statutory declarations. There are 84 legislators in the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament.