Integrity Commission Bill will be debated ‘when PM sees fit’
The Integrity Commission Bill will move forward when the prime minister sees fit, Minister of State for Legal Affairs Elsworth Johnson said yesterday.
“One of the things that the government wants, I think should happen, is civil society should come quickly with their recommendations for the improvement to the bill,” he said.
“It is on the government’s agenda, and the prime minister has seen to it that it has been laid in Parliament, and he will determine a time when we will discuss it.”
The bill, which was tabled in October 2017, would repeal the Public Disclosure Act, establish a comprehensive anti-corruption body and legislate a code of conduct for people in public life.
It details acts of corruption, including the behavior of public officials in awarding contracts, soliciting or accepting any personal benefit or providing an advantage for another person by doing an act or omitting to do an act in the performance of his or her functions as a public official.
Last week, Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) Executive Director Matt Aubry lambasted the government over its failure to advance the bill.
“We can’t wait [and expect] that the government is going to fix it,” he said.
“This bill is now sitting tabled in Parliament and so, where is the public outcry to ensure that this moves forward?
“Are people talking to their representatives and saying, ‘Hey, next week we want to see this as part of what your debate is going to be.’”
He added, “We can all agree that we don’t want politicians putting money in their pockets, but how willing are we to work towards that?”
Aubry continued, “The fact that it hasn’t moved or advanced is quite concerning, but it’s concerning not only from the government side, it’s concerning from the citizenry side.”
The Public Disclosure Act has been subject to notable scrutiny in recent years.
The act mandates members of Parliament, senators, senior public officers and public appointees to declare their assets, income and liabilities as of December 31 of each year.
It empowers both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition to “authorize the furnishing of any information furnished to him by the [Public Disclosure] Commission to the attorney general or the commissioner of police”.
It provides for a $10,000 fine or imprisonment of a term not exceeding two years, or both, for anyone who violates it.
However, it is unclear whether there have been consequences for politicians who fail to disclose.
Last week, Public Disclosure Commission Chairman Myles Laroda revealed that several parliamentarians did not meet this year’s March 1 deadline.
It remains unclear who those parliamentarians are, and if they will suffer any consequences.
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish