The Integrity Commission could soon be given stronger legal teeth to go after public officials who fail to declare their assets, government said at the weekend.
“I can tell you that it is something that we are very concerned about…it will be law that by a certain time of the year, you declare your assets, and if you don’t, the Commission has the power to do certain things about it,” Minister of State Joseph Harmon told a news conference.
The Integrity Commission has not been functioning for a number of years due to it not being properly constituted.
Minister Harmon said he met with the staff of the Integrity Commission recently and explained that, as soon as the 11th Parliament can allow for the appointment of the Commissioners this will be done so the work of the Commission can proceed.
“It may very well be us recognizing that those persons who are there had gone through a process, and the Government might say let’s agree to this, but it has to have the stamp of the 11th Parliament, which will then be taken to the President for his signature, (since) as of now, the Commission is one without Commissioners, and it is functioning under a CEO and small staff with a limited budget,” Harmon said.
The Minister of State further disclosed that the Government intends to have a fresh look at the mandate of the Commission. “We felt that the Commission did not have enough powers to enforce any of its decisions, and the fact that public officials would just submit to the Commission and there were no clear positions as to what happens after that,” Harmon explained. He is of the view that there must be some mechanisms within the law to allow for follow up. “In fact, this was discussed with the CEO,” the Minister said.
He told the media that there are models in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and other countries within the Caribbean region, where submissions to the Integrity Commission, are subjected to further scrutiny. “When you go to the Commission and say you have one house and you have 12 other houses all across the country, if they do not have the capacity to investigate that statement, then it is a waste of time,” Harmon posited.
Harmon noted that what obtained in the past will be changed as the Government is desirous of having a Commission with integrity and one that has the capacity to follow up on submissions made and take actions where necessary.
Recently former President, Bharrat Jagdeo had said that public officials should declare their assets here and overseas.
While in government, Jagdeo’s People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) had repeatedly called on opposition parliamentarians to declare their assets to the Integrity Commission.