Gordon: ‘Integrity’ still to look into controversy
Asha Javeed firstname.lastname@example.org
The Integrity Commission has yet to consider whether it has any role in the Section 34 fiasco “and we have not done so as yet”, commission chairman Kenneth Gordon said yesterday.
Gordon said the Prime Minister made the “correct” call to revoke the appointment of Herbert Volney as Justice Minister on Thursday.
“I don’t want to make a comment because we haven’t discussed it as an Integrity Commission but it’s not difficult to fault that decision. But I hope that it’s not at an end because there are too many questions in the air,” he told the Express yesterday.
“What has been done is the correct thing but I don’t think it has ended. The Integrity Commission has yet to consider if it has any role in this matter and we have not done so as yet,” he said.
Gordon was speaking to the Express at a meeting with directors and chairmen of State enterprises as well as members of the regional corporations to outline proposed changes to the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA) at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain yesterday.
He told the audience the matter was a “sensitive situation” and that the Integrity Commission would be “breaking new ground” because it has never had “a situation such as this” to address.
Volney’s portfolio was revoked on Thursday after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar concluded he had misled the Cabinet with regard to the early proclamation of Section 34—a clause which would allow white-collar criminals whose cases had languished in the courts for over ten years to be freed.
Commissioner Neil Rolingson explained that if Volney was guilty of anything, it would be a breach in the Code of Conduct of parliamentarians.
He observed that in the Public Service it was up to up the Public Service to discipline its employees. In his view, there would be an Ethics Committee to deal with such breach and he felt “that’s where the matter is probably headed”.
Chairman of local chapter of Transparency International, Deryck Murray, observed that the Prime Minister’s action was “a good first step in terms of clearing the air on that issue but obviously there are a number of issues still to be resolved and we wait to see how those will be handled”.
“In terms of going forward, what is the state of what happens next—is it the final straw? Is it one person responsible for everything that has taken place? There surely has to be follow-up action and we wait to see how that issue is addressed over the next few days,” he said.
With regard to the Integrity Commission’s decision to clear the Prime Minister of any breach of the IPLA with regard to the hiring of her sister Vidwatie Newton, Gordon said: “Be advised that communication from the commission to the complainant is always confidential and cannot be released to the public by the commission.”
He said the commission was largely guided by the advice of a senior counsel in arriving at its decision. He said the commission then applies its judgment on the matter. See Pages 5 and 18