NIA again urges swift removal of IC gag clause in light of illicit enrichment investigations against parliamentarians
WITH THE disclosure that six parliamentarians are being investigated for alleged illicit enrichment and seven lawmakers being probed for providing false information to the Integrity Commission (IC), head of the National Integrity Action (NIA) Danielle Archer is again calling for the swift removal of the gag clause in the IC law.
Section 53(3) of the IC legislation prevents the anti-corruption body from disclosing information about an investigation it is pursuing before the findings are tabled in Parliament.
Archer is suggesting that the gag clause be scrapped and the IC be allowed to exercise its discretion.
“Parliament is at liberty to establish a set of criteria which could guide the use of the discretion,” she said.
The principal director of the NIA is of the view that the principles of accountability and transparency require that the gag clause be removed.
“It cannot be that the public is denied knowing who has been referred for investigation. It hinders the investigation as it prevents those who have information from bringing it to the attention of investigators,” she said.
According to Archer, the number of persons referred by the IC for investigation for illicit enrichment and giving false information is a cause for concern.
At the same time, Carol Narcisse, public affairs commentator, asserts that any Jamaican citizen who is under investigation cannot escape his or her name being published.
“If you are a person of interest, if you are brought in for questioning, if you are detained, if you are arrested your name is being called in the public square,” she said.
She argues that in the process of pursuing justice and a just resolution to matters, there is a reputational risk for the people who are involved.
“That is a general downside which the parliamentarians have exempted themselves from,” Narcisse noted.
She questioned if the risk to the reputation of Jamaica’s parliamentarians is a greater challenge to the nation than the risk that secrecy poses to the national good.
“The parliamentarians appear to be saying that their reputation and protection of their reputation is of greater importance than the protection of the national good,” she reasoned.
Narcisse warned against the narrative by some that the reputation of lawmakers must be protected.
“Why?” she questioned, noting that parliamentarians wield a significant amount of power, and the decisions made by them affect not only the current, but future generations.
“What is this sacred cow status they wish to have for themselves?” she questioned.
Nearly 73 per cent of submissions to the Joint Select Committee reviewing the IC Act have called for the gag clause to be removed, arguing that it erodes trust and confidence in the anti-corruption watchdog.
Of the 11 groups that made submissions to the committee, eight said that Clause 53(3) should be struck from the legislation.