Thursday, February 22, 2018

IC wants ‘total overhaul’ of system

The Integrity Commission wants power to levy fines and penalties on people in public office who fail to file declarations.

And “where the Act imposes a penalty of fines and imprisonment, the person found guilty should be made to vacate office”.

The commission is recommending a “total overhaul” of the declaration forms to include: financial and other contributions to political parties; financial and other favours granted to public officials; all associated businesses; all instances of supply of goods and services to the State; all instances of tenancy arrangements between the State and the declarant and more information on Conflict of Interest as it relates to private companies, and other business relationships.

These are among the recommendations of amendments to the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA) which the Commission has documented in its 2013 Annual Report. The Report was laid in the Senate last Tuesday. The commission is required to receive, examine and retain declarations of income, assets and liabilities from persons in Public Life as well as to investigation complaints against such persons.

The report stated that the commission recommended that the term persons in public life be widened to include special and technical advisers to ministers, judges and magistrates; chief executive officers of all State enterprises, Statutory Bodies and Muncipal Corporations; chairman and members of the Integrity Commission; chairman and members of all Service Commissions, Transport Commissioner; Commission of Police; Chief Immigration Officer; chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) and Comptroller of Customs.

The commission also wants the power to levy fines and penalties on those institutions that fail to comply with the Commission’s request for and/or confirmation of information in respect of the audit of a declaration. “This must take the form of a Statement of Receipts and Expenditure,” the report said.

The commission recommended that political parties in Parliament be required to detail “all contributions, direct and indirect, and submit (this information) annually to the Integrity Commission. It suggested that the act contain provisions for “offences by companies pertaining to bribery and corruption” and penalties for such offences.

The commission proposed that the term corruption should be defined and added to the act to state that “corruption involves the dishonest or preferential use of power or position which has the result of one person or organisation advantaged over another”.

It also wants the term “permanent secretary” to be defined to include “the holder of the most senior administrative public office in any Ministry of Government and the Tobago House of Assembly” and the term “Chief Technical Officer” to mean the “holder of the most senior technical office in any Ministry of Government (other than Permanent Secretary) and include the Chief Legal Offers as defined by the Judicial and Legal Service Act.

The report noted that there has been an increase in the number of complaints received from 23 in 2009 to 56 in 2013. Investigations under review increased from 32 in 2009 to 92 in 2013. While investigations completed rose sharply from six in 2009 to 53 in 2013. For the period 2009-2013, the report noted that 58 per cent of the investigations under review had been completed and 42 per cent were incomplete or pending further information

In terms of amendments to the IPLA, the Commission also recommended that at the end of its term of office, the Integrity Commission should continue to function temporarily until a new Commission is appointed and sworn in (by the President).

The report suggests that Code of Conduct agreed to in 1987 for parliamentarians should form part of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament.

The report also reveals that the Integrity Commission is moving its offices from the Unit Trust Building to Tower D.

The report said that Cabinet by Minute No 1990 of July 18, 2013 agreed to the allocation of 15,000 square feet of fully outfitted and air-conditioned office space at Level 14, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre.

Cabinet also agreed that UDeCOTT, the facilities manager of International Waterfront Centre, will be responsible for the redesign works. “UDeCOTT has indicated that the estimated handover date is May 5, 2014,” the report said.