mixed fortunes: Kenneth Gordon

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'Do something about corruption'

By Keino Swamber
By keino.swamber@trinidadexpress.com

INTEGRITY Commission chairman Kenneth Gordon says something has to be done about where Trinidad and Tobago stands on the corruption scale.

However, he does not necessarily accept as accurate what the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) has reflected.

The CPI is published annually by Transparency International and ranks countries by their perceived levels of corruption.

Gordon was speaking yesterday at a Declarant Education Seminar, titled "Know Your Forms", for all newly-appointed members of State boards and statutory enterprises.

The seminar was held at Hyatt Regency Hotel, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain and was aimed at assisting new appointees in the completion of their declaration forms which are required to be submitted annually in accordance with the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA).

"Outside there, what we have is a problem of corruption that has said to the world that we are not really at an impressive level," Gordon said.

He told the audience, however, that one must bear in mind that what is projected is not necessarily fact.

"Sometimes it is because it (corruption) is being addressed that the perceptions occur. I'm not seeking to defend the rating Trinidad and Tobago got because of any strong arguments to say this is not only perception, this is fact, what I am saying is that we as a Commission must now try to get to the point where we can deal with more than perception."

Gordon said the Commission has been greatly stymied by its inability to proceed with enforcement on certain issues as aggressively as it would like.

"The Act makes it clear that we should do certain things. But the Act doesn't always tell us how those things should be done. The result is that you get to a certain point and then so many things can stymie you. There are so many side issues.

"You hear sometimes that an issue is before the Commission and it has taken two or three years. First of all, people forget to tell you that there were 13 months when the Commission just sat down and couldn't do anything because we didn't have a Commission.

"There are other circumstances whereby someone who wants to drag issues out for a very long period but, because of the limitations of the Act, there is little you can do about it."

Gordon said the Commission is in the process of preparing a document, for the consideration of Parliament, with recommendations on how the issue of corruption could be aggressively addressed. The Commission has been in existence for 25 years. The tenure for incumbent members of the Commission (excluding the chairman) expires today.

"It would come as no surprise to you if I said that we've had mixed fortunes. We've got a lot of stick over the years...some of it deserved, most of it undeserved."

Gordon said he believes most of the criticism levelled against the Commission stemmed from a lack of information on the part of the public.

"This Commission cannot enjoy the confidence of the public in this country unless the public understands what the Commission is doing and why it may be doing certain things. And they are only going to understand that if they are told from time to time, when big matters occur, how they have occurred and how the Commission is dealing with it.

"(By doing so), I think there is an excellent chance that people will recognise, over time, that there are some things that are sacrosanct. But if we (the public) are told that the Commission is doing something wrong and the Commission doesn't tell us why this charge is being made or explain it to us, there is no way we can expect the public to have confidence in the Commission.

"So this is, in a sense, a changing period for us. We have now taken a decision that we will communicate with the public on critical issues, when this is required, and we will tell our position clearly."

Gordon said this new position of the Commission must be balanced against the continued and critical need for matters which come before it to be treated with the utmost confidence.

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