No regulations for financiers
Under the Integrity in Public Life Act, Bhola may have some questions to answer.
As chairman of GISL, Bhola falls under the Integrity in Public Life Act.
The preamble of the act states: “An Act to provide for the establishment of the Integrity Commission; to make new provisions for the prevention of corruption of persons in public life by providing for public disclosure; to regulate the conduct of persons exercising public functions; to preserve and promote the integrity of public officials and institutions and for matter incidental thereto.”
Head of the Public Service, Reynold Cooper, said while some public officials are not required to declare their assets and file returns the act refers to a person exercising public functions.
“In terms of the Public Service, the permanent secretary and chief technical officers are required under the act to declare assets to the Integrity Commission but the deputy permanent secretary does not.
“However, the deputy permanent secretary and a person in public life are appointed by the Public Service Commission and even though the deputy permanent secretary is not required to file he is accountable. This applies to any person holding a public office in a statutory authority. The preamble of the act clearly refers to a person in public life and a person exercising public functions. The person exercising public functions do not have to file a return but the conduct of the person is covered by the act,” Cooper said.
Cooper said Part IV of the act which refers to the code of conduct also covers a person in public life and a person exercising public functions.
Expounding further on the matter, former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj said the code of conduct prohibits persons from exercising their public duties in such a way to either further their own interest or the interest of others who are not connected by their public duties.
“The act prohibits persons from conducting their public duties in such a way that their public duties are compromised in that they are furthering the interest of other persons which amounts to a conflict of interest.
“The conduct of public functions to further the interest of a political party even if it is the interest of the political party in government is prohibited by the code of conduct,” he said.
Maharaj said under the section, the statutory authority has the power to discipline the officer involved if he or she violates the duties of the act.
“The statutory authority has a duty to report the violation to the Director of Public Prosecutions to see whether a criminal offence had been committed on the violation of duty,” Maharaj said.
Maharaj said the criminal offence known as misconduct of public office is punishable by fine or imprisonment.
Contacted for comment, former head of the Contractors Association, Mervyn Chin, stressed the need for campaign funding to be made public.
“If a contractor agrees with the culture of a political party and he wishes to make a contribution whereby increasing their chances of success I do not see anything wrong with that. However, it must be transparent. It must state from whom and how much.”
Unlike in the United States, where the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) of 1972 requires candidates to disclose sources of campaign contributions and expenditure, there are no regulations in Trinidad and Tobago to trace or compel disclosure of the funding given to political parties.
Under the Representation of the People Act, the expenditure of a candidate is limited to $50,000 to run his/her election campaign but campaign expenses often exceed the sum.
Three years after the People’s Partnership promised to implement the legislation, it remains outstanding.
On both sides of the political divide, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley have taken jabs at each other relating to campaign funding. Rowley questioned if the early proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act might have been a possible $2 million payback for two businessmen who were once financiers of the UNC.
Businessmen Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson would have been entitled to be freed of corruption charges arising out of the Piarco Airport corruption scandal if the clause had not been repealed.
Persad-Bissessar , in a counter attack at the People’s Partnership pre-budget rally last year, brandished a $5 million cheque made out to the People’s National Movement (PNM) in 2007 by former CL Financial head Lawrence Duprey.
Duprey also made financial contributions to family members of former prime minister Basdeo Panday to assist with their education.