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EDITORIAL - FINSAC enquiry flawed

Published:Thursday | January 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM

It would have been better, in the interest of public accountability, if the $29 million in fees to be paid to the three commissioners inquiring into the 1990 collapse of Jamaica's financial sector had been declared at the start rather than allowed to dribble out.

But we do not believe that the fee and the $80 million-plus budget for the inquiry are the critical issues relating to public trust in the commission, and that any findings it delivers will be received with any trust. The more fundamental issue is the continued chairmanship of the commission by Justice Boyd Carey, and whether the commission, given how it has gone about its work, is not already badly compromised.

We have no doubt that whatever may be the legal rulings on Justice Carey's capacity to continue that he is fatally flawed.

This newspaper has previously complained about the apparently cavalier fashion with which the commissioners have managed the proceedings, seeming to make up the procedural rules as they go along. And, to put it bluntly, we perceived hostility to certain witnesses, and that the commissioners had arrived at a priori conclusions.

Conflict of interest

Now there are claims that Justice Carey faces a potential conflict of interest, with a contention that an outstanding family debt to one of the banks taken over by FINSAC - the vehicle used by the Government for its bail-out efforts - remained unresolved. The legal advice to the commission is otherwise, but the matter remains in dispute.

Justice Carey should have recused himself from this enquiry, or at the very least there should have been a public declaration of the matter before the start of the hearing. He did not.

We believe that it was arrogant on Justice Carey's part, having declared the legal opinion in his favour, to shut off lawyers of different persuasion on the issue from speaking on the matter in Tuesday's hearing. In the circumstances, we repeat our previous advice to the commissioners: they should abandon the enquiry rather than cause deeper embarrassment to everyone and doing further damage to their reputations.

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