No timeline for Disclosure Commission to resume work
The work of the Public Disclosure Commission remains on hold as it awaits the remediation of its mold infested building on East Bay Street, said Commission Chairman Myles Laroda yesterday.
“The government is going to have to take the roof off, have the roof repaired and then have the mold situation cleared up,” Laroda told The Nassau Guardian.
“In the meantime, all of the files that are housed in the commission, they have been sealed away.
“They have been quarantined because I am advised that the staff has been informed that these files may be contaminated with mold also, and so no one should touch them until they have been, for a better word, sanitized or some remediation would have been done on them before the staff should make contact with the files.
“The commission can’t work because we don’t have access to the files.
“That’s the long and short of it. We don’t have access to the files, so we can’t give any reports.
“We can’t give updates because we would want to work from the information that is stated in the files itself.”
Laroda said he is unsure when the commission can resume its work because he still does not know when remediation on the building will begin.
He said he has reached out to the government to try to find out the scope of works and timeframe for the building’s remediation, but he has not yet received a response.
“At the commission we don’t have an independent budget, so everything that is done at the commission comes from the Cabinet Office,” he noted.
“And so, I am not privileged to [information regarding] the company that is going to be used, the scope of works, when it is going to start, when it is going to be finished.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis reappointed Laroda chairman in July.
Early in the term, Minnis threatened to forward the names to the attorney general of those who served as members of Parliament during the last term, but failed to make their financial disclosures as required by law.
Minnis’ press secretary, Anthony Newbold, told the media on June 7 that “more than 20 members of Parliament, former and present, have three weeks in which to file”.
According to Laroda, at the end of the day on June 30, most of the disclosures that had been outstanding were in.
Asked what the commission has done since that statement from the prime minister, Laroda said, “I haven’t filed any reports since then.
“We are waiting until this mold problem has been remediated and then we can resume our work.
“The commission has had one meeting of familiarization.
“Myself and the other two members met with the staff at the commission, so it’s in place, we just can’t move because of the present situation.”
Speaking to the inability of the commission to do its work because of the mold issue, Laroda noted that it is a problem that has been building for years.
“The reality is, to be quite blunt, it took a period of time for us to get to this point,” he said.
“So this would have been an accumulation of problems over the years and past administrations.
“It is manifesting now. That mold problem must have been there for a while. The building, it’s an old one.
“I can’t say if any renovation or maintenence has been done to it, but in my walking through the building itself, especially the storage areas, you can see the upkeep has been virtually non-existent in my personal view.”
The Public Disclosure Act empowers both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition to “authorize the furnishing of any information furnished to him by the commission to the attorney general or the commissioner of police”.
That information includes the commission’s report on the MPs and other public officials who have failed to file their disclosures.
The law was created in an effort to ensure that elected and publicly appointed officials do not enrich themselves off the public purse.
The 1976 act provides for the Cabinet to gazette the information.
During the recent Christie administration, the report was not gazetted.
The most recent gazetted report is from December 2011, and it contains information on disclosures only up to 2008.