Ministerial Code of Conduct, Integrity Commission Act to be merged

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 April 2016, 17:55 by Denis Chabrol

The Guyana government is exploring the possibility of twinning the proposed ministerial Code of Conduct with the Integrity Commission Act, according to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo.

“We are looking how to merge the Code of Conduct with the Integrity legislation so that you don’t have different standards for the Integrity legislation…and the Code of Conduct is setting either a higher or lower standard,” he told reporters Monday night.

With the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) being the only organisation that has submitted a critique of the proposed Code of Conduct, the Prime Minister said government would next issue another public call for additional contributions.

Nagamootoo said the administration would also examine best practices from Caribbean countries such as Trinidad and Tobago and other countries outside the region. He hoped that the entire process would take at least six weeks.

GBA President, Christopher Ram said it was possible to merge the Code of Conduct for ministers and parliamentarians with the Integrity Commission  Act. One option, he said, could be that the Code becomes part of the schedule of the Act.

He said the crux of the GBA’s recommendation is that Code of Conduct must be enforced by law. “It needs teeth- that’s the Bar Association’s recommendation. It must have the force of law; a lot of countries have the force of law,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Red Thread, a women and children’s rights organisation, has already publicly criticized the Draft Code of Conduct for ministers and parliamentarians on the grounds that it does not provide for ways to deal with allegations of sexual harassment and child molestation.

The draft code, if approved,  prohibits gambling and imposes a  strict cap on the value of gifts. Other provisions are that ministers, Members of Parliament and public office holders should avoid using their official position or any transmitting any information made available to them in the course of their to benefit themselves, their relations or any other individuals with whom they are associated. They should avoid compromising themselves or their office and which may lead to an actual or perceived conflict of interest.”

The code also bars ministers, parliamentarians and public office holders from accepting lavish or frequent entertainment from persons with whom the Government has official dealings.

In addition, officials and staff are prohibited from disclosing any classified or proprietary information to anyone without prior authorisation by the Government. Officials and staff who have access to or are in control of such information should at all times provide adequate safeguards to prevent its abuse or misuse. The draft code states that those categories of persons must not engage in frequent or excessive gambling with persons who have business dealings with the Government as well as among colleagues, particularly with subordinates.

The Code  states violators will be subject to disciplinary action, or termination of appointment/employment where warranted.