Fresh mandate for Integrity Commission to be examined soon –appointment of Commissioners to pass through National Assembly

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Minister of State, Joseph Harmon

A “fresh mandate” which will guide the work of the Integrity Commission — currently without commissioners — is expected to be examined soon by the APNU+AFC Government.This announcement was made by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, yesterday at a post-Cabinet press briefing held at the Ministry of the Presidency.

According to the minister, during a meeting last week with the staff of the Commission, he gave assurance that the body’s mandate will be re-examined, since it was felt that the Commission did not have enough power to enforce any of its decisions.

The Integrity Commission was created through the Integrity Commission Act, which makes provision for the purpose of securing the integrity of persons in public office. Public officers and position holders listed under schedule one of the Act should disclose to the Commission their financial assets and liabilities on or before June 30 each year.

Referring to the model used by Trinidad and Barbados, Harmon explained that there is need to ensure that some mechanism is in place within the law to allow for “follow-up” where submissions to the Commission are subjected to further scrutiny.

This, he revealed, was discussed with the current Chief Executive Officer, who sits at the head of all departmental arrangements existing in the Commission presently.

“This is what we had in the past; statements are made and there is no follow-up. We wanted an Integrity Commission which, in the first place, has integrity; and in the second case has the capacity to follow up when statements which are made by public officials need to be followed up.

“I can assure you that it is something we [the government] are very concerned about. It will be law that by certain time of the year you declare your assets; and if you don’t, the Commission has the right to do something about it,” Harmon told reporters.
He however noted that the other pertinent issue is the appointment of the Commissioners, which the Commission lacks currently.

The minister explained that, under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Administration, there were some Commissioners who were recommended in the Tenth Parliament but the then President had not appointed them.

What this means then, he said, is that these recommendations have “lapsed”, and must therefore go back to the National Assembly to be refreshed or for new persons to be appointed.

Opining that it may very well be that those persons who were recommended before will serve as Commissioners, Harmon noted that the stamp of the 11th Parliament is needed, after which the President’s signature is required for this process to be completed.

Reiterating that the Commission is currently without Commissioners, the minister said it is functioning with a very small staff and a very limited budget.

The Integrity Commission was created through the Integrity Commission Act which was assented to on September 24, 1997. The Act makes provision for the purpose of securing the integrity of persons in public office.

The Commission has the power under the laws of Guyana to do anything for the proper performance of its functions; and in discharging its functions, it is not subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority. The Commission has the authority to regulate its own procedures, and may make rules for that purpose.

Public officers and positions listed under schedule one of the Act should disclose their financial assets and liabilities on or before June 30 each year.

When a public officer ceases to be a person in public life, he/she should disclose his/her assets and liabilities to the Commission within 30 days from the date that he/she ceases to be a person in public life.

By Ravin Singh