President David Granger has stated that the Administration is working on “tightening” the legislations governing the operations of the Integrity Commission, pointing out that they cannot go ahead with what obtained previously.
He told reporters on his weekly programme ‘The Public Interest’, which aired on Friday, that he expects the legislation to be tabled in the National Assembly before the end of the year.
“We are looking at tightening the legislation to make sure that persons who may have committed illegal acts are actually prosecuted. Right now, it does not happen so we are working on the legislation, it will be brought to Cabinet and I expect before the end of this year, there will be a functioning Integrity Commission… We want a proper functioning Commission,” the Head of State said.
The President further stated that the Administration is going to create functional laws and functional organisational structure.
“Right now, what we inherited from the previous Administration is unworkable and you can see the attempts the previous Administration made, appointing chairpersons, it was poorly funded, poorly administered and it was just a dysfunctional organisation. So give us time but the work has to be correct, we cannot go into it with what we had before,” he remarked.
According to the Head of State, in the past, the Commission operated like a “post office”. He noted that persons would submit their returns but no action was taken. The Commission which is responsible for accountability of persons holding public office has been without a Chairman for some time and has reportedly been functioning with a skeletal staff.
It is functioning under a CEO and a very small staff and a very limited budget. Based on the Commission’s Act, the Commission’s staff should comprise a Chairman, three Commissioners, a Secretary/Chief Executive Officer, an Accounts Clerk, a Clerical Officer, a Receptionist, an Office Assistant and a Cleaner.
However, INews understands that almost half of these positions are vacant. From the beginning of the Integrity Commission’s mission, the People’s National Congress stymied its effectiveness when it refused to accept Bishop Randolph George as Chairman.
The party refused to submit information on assets and other personal financial transactions. The Alliance For Change followed their lead after it was formed. In the meantime, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and other smaller parties made submissions.
Government had said there is still some work that has to be done on the Commission. President Granger noted that while he recently held talks with staff members, which included a Chief Executive Officer, the question is the appointment of Commissioners.
On the other hand, in pushing transparency among public officials, the PPP/Civic Opposition had proposed a motion to have Ministers’ tax records and statements be made available to the Integrity Commission and be released to the public.
However, that motion was defeated by Government. Opposition Leader Bharat Jagdeo had stated that he has already declared all his assets to the Integrity Commission and is willing to disclose his international possessions as well, if Government is prepared to follow suit.