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Office of Political Ombudsman calls for more teeth

Published:Tuesday | February 18, 2014 | 12:00 AM

FORMER POLITICAL Ombudsman Bishop Herro Blair said in his 2012 report the election oversight body should be given more powers to police breaches of the Political Code of Conduct, noting that moral suasion alone cannot produce the desired results.

The now-retired Blair argued in his report that the existing strategies employed by the office to carry out its mandate should be reviewed.

"This office, over the years, sought to carry out its functions on the fundamentals of moral suasion. However, it has become abundantly clear that moral suasion needs to be coupled with more aggressive approaches."

Added Blair: "It is as a result of this that I suggest a legalistic framework in the thrust towards a more aggressive approach."

The Office of the Political Ombudsman has also expressed concern about the way in which funding for the office is administered.

Blair has "strongly recommended" that the office be given the resources to handle its own finances.

He explained that since the office was established in 2002, its finances have been handled by the accounting department of the Houses of Parliament, to which it submits a budget each year.

According to Blair, the office is not informed on whether the proposed budget is accepted and no balance statements are received by the office at the end of the financial year.

"Although the office has made numerous requests to have this issue resolved, the issue remains the same," he said.

"This is clearly an unacceptable display of good governance and transparency which, ultimately, poses a serious challenge to the integrity of the office."