Amid what it calls “a storm of speculation” in the recent handling of alleged corruption cases, Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) yesterday renewed its called for the passage of the Integrity Commission Bill and Ombudsman Bill.
“ORG again urges MPs on both sides and the public at large to recognize the vital need for an independent Integrity Commission in ensuring that anti-corruption efforts remain above politics and cannot be used for scapegoating,” ORG Executive Director Matt Aubry said.
“Regardless of what side one stands on, it is easy to see that the incidents in the past week, and indeed many of the instances of prosecution of public figures over successive administrations, demonstrate a need to create an atmosphere where not even the perception of political bias may prevail, from start to finish of this process.”
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) senators walked out of the Upper Chamber on Thursday, while PLP MPs did the same in the House of Assembly on Wednesday. Opposition senators did not show up at all on Friday.
Party leaders have announced that the PLP is boycotting the House of Assembly and the Senate.
On Friday, Attorney General Carl Bethel voiced concern that PLP MPs and senators are staging their boycott as a tactic to intimidate the government and “prosecution services” in the country.
Aubry said the “the process for addressing corruption continues to be so contentious [that it] highlights the need for institutions like an Integrity Commission”.
“ORG is focused on systemic change that applies regardless of which party holds power,” he said.
“We seek to create solutions that address the root of these issues and minimize the occurrence or appearance of corruption. The focus of good governance should be on benefitting the people and ensuring transparent, fair and accountable government. Until we pass laws and address the culture of corruption it is the citizens of The Bahamas, not political parties, that will bear the brunt of the costs of corruption.”
The Integrity Commission Bill, which would establish a comprehensive anti-corruption body and legislate a code of conduct for people in public life, was tabled by the government in October 2017.
The Ombudsman Bill was also established in October 2017.
According to the Ombudsman Bill, the ombudsman will have the power to enter any government department or division to inspect the premises and conduct interviews or examine any document relevant to the complaint, except in some special circumstances.
In spite tabling the bills more than a year ago, the government has yet to debate or pass them in the House of Assembly.
Last month, Bethel told The Nassau Guardian that the Integrity Commission Bill was still in the consultation phase.