Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Integrity Commission hits back at Malahoo Forte on leadership code

Published:Tuesday | June 6, 2023 | 4:27 PM
Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte. - File photo.

Jamaica's Integrity Commission has hit back at Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte for her public pronouncements that the anti-corruption body was trying to embarrass the Cabinet for not signing its Leadership Code of Conduct.

The commission has also sought to set the record straight in relation to remarks made by both Malahoo Forte and de facto information minister Robert Morgan about the code.

The anti-corruption body suggested that Morgan's comments may have caused confusion in the public domain.

The commission's Leadership Code of Conduct is recognised throughout the Commonwealth as the Seven Principles of Public Life.

It guides ministers of government and parliamentarians in the United Kingdom, and in other countries which have adopted it, as to the standards by which political leaders should be measured and held accountable.

Among other things, the Seven Principles of Public Life speak to the ideals of Leadership; Honesty; Openness; Accountability; and Integrity.

The commission said that the Seven Principles of Public Life are non-negotiable and are considered the desired standard for good governance, leadership, integrity, and conduct in public affairs, and in the discharge of public functions.

Addressing a Joint Select Committee of Parliament reviewing the Integrity Commission Act, 2017, last week, Malahoo Forte said: “We know that the Integrity Commission has been putting out in the media who has signed the code that they have put out and who hasn't signed. And instead of requesting a formal meeting with either the Cabinet or the parliamentary body, they have gone all over the place with a shaming approach.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the oversight body charged that it was unfortunate that Malahoo Forte has taken issue with the commission, while remaining silent on the part of Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the Cabinet, including herself, to sign the code.

“She appears to be bothered by the fact that the commission has been advising the public of the public officials who have signed the code,” the commission said.

The commission is adamant that it is serving the public interest, by bringing transparency to the issue that is of significant public interest.

Malahoo Forte had said that the commission should “request a formal meeting with either the Cabinet or the Parliamentary Body.”

However, the commission said it has already met formally with the Cabinet on no less than 10 occasions - between November 2020 and February 2021.

It said that the purpose of those meetings was for the commission to administer the training that Malahoo Forte has now “unwittingly conceded” should be the forerunner to the issue of the Commission's Code of Conduct.

According to the commission, it was the prime minister who came up with the idea of the training when Executive Director of the commission, Greg Christie, paid a courtesy call on him on June 9, 2020.

At the meeting, the prime minister invited Christie to speak with his Cabinet members on the issue of corruption, according to the commission.

The commission, through its executive director, developed and administered the specialised workshops to the Cabinet and the Shadow Cabinet, it added.

The anti-corruption body said it is still awaiting a response from the prime minister to its letter of November 15, 2022, inviting him and his Cabinet to sign the code.

“Despite the passage of over six months, and despite the fact that the training upon which the code was predicated was initiated by the MHPM [PM Holness] himself, the MHPM is, however, yet to respond to the commission's letter to him of November 15, 2022. Further, neither he nor any member of the Cabinet of the Government of Jamaica has, to date, signed the Code,” the commission stated.

And the commission said it is surprised by remarks made by Morgan who has direct responsibility for the Jamaica Information Service (JIS).

Morgan told a post-Cabinet press briefing in April that he had not been presented with a code of conduct or had been asked to sign any document relating to the code.

The commission said that the JIS has, from the very outset, benefited directly from extensive clarifications, from the commission, regarding the code.

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