Sunday, January 21, 2018

Time to revamp Integrity Commission

After the turbulence with the recurring problems with its membership, in particular, its chairmanship, the Integrity Commission has once again attracted attention— this time, due to the recent appointment of a tribunal by the President to determine whether any breaches of the oath of secrecy in certain activities of the commission may have been committed.

This matter has been further compounded by the President's suspension of the deputy chairman from duty and her recourse to the High Court in consequence.

It is clear all has not been well with this commission for some time. Indeed, questions are being asked as to its usefulness or otherwise. These are not easy to address as the Integrity Commission, by its legislative mandate, is expected to be so ordered as to be an exemplar, no doubt a prime exemplar, to the citizenry of this country.

In this regard, the commission is required to have as its members persons of "integrity and high standing".

The question might be asked: Why an Integrity Commission? If this is indeed the case, what mechanism is to be fashioned for this task to be carried out effectively? Unfortunately, this writer would answer "yes" to the question on whether or not there is a need, at this time, for an Integrity Commission to guard against corruption and malfeasance among persons in high public office .

He would postulate that the history of the commission over the past five or six years, or thereabouts, is a clear indication there is a need to revisit the role and functions of the commission.

It may seem, also, that setting up of bodies such as the Integrity Commission in some countries may be a consequence of an inability (for whatever reasons) of political apparatuses to offer to electorates persons of unquestionably high ethical and moral standards.

In this regard, we may take note of what Lord Acton is reputed to have said: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," or as Edmund Burke has said: "The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse."

It is certainly now clear to the public that some private-sector organisations may be far from being above reproach and serene, and, in consequence, there is definitely a need for anti-corruption policing of the private sector and for strict vigilance, in respect of bodies charged with enforcing ethical standards in professional and private activity.

In a recent newspaper advertisement, the Integrity Commission has stated that among its mandate is to:

• induce and exemplify integrity in public life and throughout


• launch public education programmes that factor an understanding of the standards of integrity.

Needless to say, these are very laudable intentions which, if strongly supported and properly implemented, could have a positive effect on the population in general, in the long run. Indeed, this points to a possible shift in emphasis in the work of the commission which, while not losing sight of its mandate in respect of complaints into corrupt practices, has, of late, been preoccupied with many complaints which border more on petty, personal indiscretions rather than on serious breaches of integrity and which ought to be more appropriately handled through established and enlightened parliamentary practice.

Not too long ago, this writer, in alluding to its several "missteps", had (mischievously) prescribed a "bush bath" for the People's Partnership Government. He became aware that a few days afterwards, Opposition MP Mr Colm Imbert, in referring to the occurrences at the Integrity Commission and no doubt becoming aware of the medicine which the writer had prescribed, had himself prescribed a "bush bath" for the Integrity Commission.

In addition, Mr Keith Rowley, Leader of the Opposition, had surmised that the commission may have received a "fatal wound" on account of a police raid at the Newsday newspaper, which is suspected to be related to a matter involving the Integrity Commission. This writer is of the view that rather than needing a "bush bath", the Integrity Commission may require "root and branch" surgery. In this regard, the general public should be invited to have its say.

Errol OC Cupid