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Code of Conduct for ministers, other parliamentarians

Inside the Parliament Chamber before the May 1, 2015 election.

by Zena Henry

A few modifications will be made to the existing Code of Conduct for Ministers and Parliamentarians, but this new instrument in ensuring responsibility and accountability is poised to become a condition of service for holding high offices.

This is according to the new A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance for Change Coalition-led administration following that coalition’s victory at the recently held 2015 General and Regional Elections.

The then opposition team was vigorously pushing for this code in a bid to regulate especially, members of 23-year reigning People’s Progressive Party (PPP).

Now with a majority in the House and leading the executive arm of the State, the APNU+AFC government reiterated beliefs that, “Once you are in public service and work as a minister or Member of Parliament, it is public service.”

“Some kind of code which monitors or guarantees that there is a conduct that one will have, which is above board, that confirms with international best practices; that says to the people you are serving, that you are committed to service and you are not about service to yourself,” is necessary,” Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon told State television Tuesday May 19.

Harmon said the Code has already been drafted and pointed out that, “In the Tenth Parliament all our Members of Parliament subscribed to such a code. There will be some modification on it for all our ministers now.”

He said however, “We believe that that should be a condition of their service. They must be prepared to commit to a Code which says that their service must be of a certain quality and a certain character.”

As the 16th item on the new government’s 100-day implementation plan, they announced that, “A Code of Conduct will be established for Parliamentarians, Ministers and others holding high positions in Conduct.”

With high levels of alleged corruption, accusations of disregard for public property, resources and citizens made against the former government, it became a civic mantra for public officers to give their word to citizens to publicly act in a certain way and to uphold certain standards.

As this Code is expected to be passed in the first 100 days of the new government being in office, the public is still to hear of the repercussions in failing to uphold the standards they will ascribe to. But on the campaign trail, APNU+AFC speakers had warned that erring government ministers would be fired if they violate the code.

Some have called for the immediate dismissal and imprisonment of public officials if they should shortfall on primary standards.

APNU+AFC campaigners had floated the need for the code in light of unsavoury utterances by then Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall and then Minister of Health, Bheri Ramsarran.