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EDITORIAL - PNP must go all the way with its integrity commission

Published:Thursday | April 29, 2010 | 12:00 AM

There is no gainsaying that Jamaicans believe that corruption is pervasive in our country. And that perception is, in the end, just as important as the real facts of corruption in Jamaica, which is that it is a very corrupt place.

It is in that context that we welcome the announcement by the president of the People's National Party (PNP) of her establishment of a specialised commission to monitor the integrity of her party's members.

"I take the integrity of the party very seriously," Mrs Simpson Miller told the party's National Executive Council (NEC) on Sunday. "I want to ensure we take pride in what is being achieved by this noble movement and that all our candidates and all our officials can stand the scrutiny of ,time."

Mrs Simpson Miller's statement, at first blush, reads well. Unfortunately, it tells us little of the intent and scope of the commission. We do not know what precisely it is intended to do.

On reflection, though, that Mrs Simpson Miller did not set out a settled system - suggesting instead that the responsibilities of the commission is a work in progress - may not be a bad approach. It provides an opportunity for public participation in shaping the scheme.

Public credibility

First, we expect that the trio of party officials named - Trevor Munroe, K.D. Knight and Omar Davies - will outline the policies of the commissioners, that they will take their task seriously, instituting requirements that will enjoy public credibility. Indeed, Professor Munroe's work with the National Integrity Action Forum, at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies and his past work with Transparency International should lend to this.

Nonetheless, it will not be easy for a political party, whose members are unused to systems of integrity testing and formal processes of accountability, to be aggressive in deciding who and what should fall under the commission.

In that regard, we recommend to the Munroe/Davis/Knight troika that ahead of submitting their recommendations for internal party approval, that they put them out for public review and suggestions. The PNP should adopt and implement the most robust scheme possible.

The party, at the very least, should demand nothing less of all its members who hold or are seeking election to national internal office and as members of the NEC and the shadow Cabinet than what the national legislature requires of its members. They ought to be made to file, periodically, certified assets and liability statements, which should be appropriately reviewed and tested.

Moral authority

Similarly, candidates for internal and national office should be made to account for their campaign finances as well as for how the money is spent.

We believe that the named commissioners evangelical preacher, Bishop W.A. Blair, retired civil servants Daisy Coke and Cedric McCalla and party elder statesmen Fred Hamaty and Burchell Whiteman, will bring the moral authority, appropriate skills and integrity to give the commission prestige and respect. But these five persons, by themselves, cannot accomplish what this newspaper envisions for such a commission.

If the PNP is really serious, it will invest in a small team of full-time investigators who will support the work of the commissioners. It would be money well spent, which we would also recommend to the Jamaica Labour Party.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.