Public officials in Grenada will have to wait a few more months before they can declare their assets as required in the 2007 Integrity in Public Life Act, because of important amendments which must be done to the piece of legislation to establish the Integrity Commission.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell recently told reporters, that though the amendment are minor, they are important to have the Commission which is chaired by former Judge Lyle St Paul, operational. At the time Dr Mitchell could not remember what changes were required in the legislation, but persons close to the Commission have disclosed that the amended Bill will most likely be presented to the Houses Parliament for approval during the early days of the second session of the Ninth Parliament.
One of the most important changes will be removing a public servant to be secretary to the Commission. “The law requires that a secretary SHALL come from the public service; it therefore means that it will be a violation of the law to appoint someone who is not a public officer. This, we believe is a conflict of interest for the public servant who will be seconded, because the Commission will be investigating public officers,” said one person who is supporting the amendment.
Investigations have revealed that the relevant recommendations were pointed out to the previous Tillman Thomas administration, but no action was taken. Not only they did not act on the recommendations to ensure that the Commission was up and functioning effectively, but no money was actually allotted to the Commission, although it was allocated in the budget presentations of the NDC administration.
Dr Mitchell said that he had informed the Commission that he was willing to call a news conference and personally declare his assets, but they have informed him that his is not necessary because all they really need are the relevant changes to the legislation.
“We intend to go to the parliament quickly with this,” he told reporters while reaffirming his belief that assets need to be declared. ‘They informed me that the forms and other things are ready and waiting.”
The Integrity in Public Life Act calls for Public Officers and person associated with Government institutions to declare their assets annually. However, one of the major announcements upon taking office on 20 February 2013, Dr Mitchell said that he will ask the Commission to engage phase compliance, starting with Parliamentarians, followed by Senior Public Servants.
It is believed that almost 15,000 persons will be expected to declare their assets to the Commission. They will include the wives, husbands and children of persons defined as public officials.
By Linda Straker