Amendments to Integrity Commission Act dangerous – Opposition Leader

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…says decision to remove persons from public office may soon be politically motivated

Functions that reside with an independent body to remove public officials who act unprofessionally and/or unlawfully may soon lie in the hands of the Executive if Government has its way and passes its proposed amendment to the Integrity Commission Act.
The proposed amendment, which was circulated by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, puts the enforcement powers in the hands of the President, David Granger where Government Ministers are in breach and in the hands of the Minister of State, Joseph Harmon in cases of other persons in public life, including elected Members of Parliament (MPs). These observations were made by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, who noted that such a move would not only be dangerous but outright unconstitutional.
“So, just imagine, Harmon will now decide the fate of Members of Parliament, because persons in public life may be removed from office when s/he contravenes any of the provisions in this code,” he surmised, noting that it would be unconstitutional for a sitting minister to be empowered to remove an elected official in the National Assembly.
He argued, too, that both the President and Harmon were subject to the Integrity Commission Act and if they were responsible for enforcing provisions under it, then there would be a major conflict of interest.
“So, what they are doing now, moving it (power) from an independent body that the Executive should have no control over, because members of the Executive, including the President, have to submit their statements to this body and be overseen by this body and [it can] initiate prosecutorial actions against the President for breach. They are seeking now to amend that Act under the Code of Conduct, which is for not just Ministers but MPs and put the enforcement power, the ability to remove people from public life in the hands of the President and Minister of State,” he explained.
In this regard, Jagdeo said the parliamentary Opposition would reject the proposed amendment to the Integrity Commission Act.
“We will oppose this amendment, because this amendment is another tool to seem as though they are doing something about a Code of Conduct for Ministers, to seem as though they are pursuing transparent, accountable lives, but, on the other hand, they are setting the basis for further witch-hunt and to come after PPP members,” he stated.
Jagdeo surmised that the Government Ministers only portrayed themselves as guardians of probity and paradigms of transparency and accountability while they quietly and insidiously dismantle institutions that prevent corruption.
He alluded to the subversion of tender boards across the country, attempts to influence the courts by launching onslaughts on the Judiciary, among other moves.
Jagdeo also reminded that these same Ministers refused to support a motion to have all parliamentarians make certain submissions to the Integrity Commission.
He reminded too that Government has already disbanded the Commission by sending home staff and taking possession of documents that belong with the constitutional body.
Furthermore, he contended that all Government Ministers should be in jail right now for numerous breaches of the Code of Conduct.
The Code stipulates that Ministers must declare all private interests relating to duties of public officials, demonstrate objectivity in executing business and make decisions based on merit and solely in the national interest without benefit or personal gain.
Jagdeo contended that the Code of Conduct was nothing but a farce as all of the Ministers were in breach of it. (Guyana Times)

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