Integrity Commission investigating MNIB operations

by Linda Straker

  • New MNIB board members realised financial wrongdoings
  • Integrity Commission investigating alleged corruption

Grenada’s Integrity Commission is the body spearheading an investigation of alleged financial wrongdoings and corrupt practices by a former public officer and possible current public officers, in the operations of the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB) covering the period 2013 to 2018.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell disclosed on 31 July 2018 during a news conference that on Monday,30 July Cabinet endorsed a recommendation for a thorough investigation, which was put forward by him as the minister who has oversight for the MNIB.

The decision comes against the backdrop of recent revelations about the possible inappropriate use of MNIB funds. The Prime Minister acknowledged that a lot has gone wrong at the MNIB. A new Board of Directors were appointed following the 13 March 2018 General Election, and it was these new members who realised there were financial wrongdoings. Shortly after their appointment, then CEO left his job for a new post within the Ministry of Economic Development.

On Monday, 3 September a news release from the Integrity Commission stated it has started the investigation and provided a status report. This is the first corruption investigation since Grenada approved legislation to combat corruption.

“Further to media reports and statements circulating with regard to concerns about the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB), the Integrity Commission, on its own initiative, commenced investigations into the current and past affairs at the Board, from early August 2018.” The release did not provide the investigation start date.

The Commission said that as part of the process it mobilised its investigations team, which comprises its technical staff of the Office of the Commission, including the Head of Investigations, Head of Compliance and the Legal Officer.

The release confirmed that the current Chairman Senator Christopher De Allie and Elvis Young, Acting CEO of the MNIB and relevant authorities have been advised by the commission of the commencement of its investigations into the management and operations of the entity. “Members of the investigation team have also met with its Chairman and Acting CEO,” the release disclosed.

Anande Trotman-Joseph, Chairman of the Integrity Commission said, “The investigations system is one of the many systems being implemented by the commission which is progressively reviewing the systems of the islands statutory bodies in accordance with the mandate in the Integrity in Public Life, the Prevention of Corruption and related Acts.”

The commission said that preliminary information was requested in pursuant to section 12 (1) (f) of the Integrity in Public Life Act, to inform the Commission’s Investigation.

That section of the legislation provides for the functions of Commission and “f” clearly states that it shall: Examine the practices and procedures of Public Bodies.

“Further to section 12 (2) (b) of the Integrity in Public Life Act, the Commission has commenced collaboration with its external stakeholders, and consultants, as it progresses the Investigation and Inquiry into the state of affairs at the MNIB,” the release stated.

That section of the law says that in the exercise of the function, “the Commission may in all cases where it considers it appropriate to do so, make use of the services or draw on the expertise of any law enforcement agency or the public service.”

The commission is also utilising section 13 of the Integrity in Public Life Act, which explains the powers and function of the commission. It says that the commission shall have the same powers, rights and privileges as a commission of inquiry appointed pursuant to the provision of the Commission of Inquiry Act.

In keeping with that provision, the commission has designated the Investigations and Complaints Panel of Commissioners, to oversee the Inquiry stage of the Investigation.

The members of the Inquiry Panel of the Commission for the purposes of the MNIB investigation are:

(1). The Chairman, Commissioner Robert Robinson, who is the Deputy Chairman of the Commission. He is a regional subject matter expert in Industrial Relations, and was recommended to serve on the Commission by then Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas, of the National Democratic Congress Government;

(2) Commissioner Oforiwa Augustine who is an experienced Lawyer and former magistrate.  She was recommended to serve on the Commission by the Grenada Council of Churches, and;

(3) Commissioner Bertie Hill, who is an experienced Church Leader, with a background in Management and Business, and was recommended to serve on the Commission by the Association of Evangelical Churches.

The release said that these Commissioners shall conduct the Inquiry in private and in accordance with section 12 (1) (e), and (f) of the Integrity in Public Life Act. Subsection E says that the Commission shall “Investigate the conduct of any person falling under the purview of the Commission which in the opinion of the Commission may be considered dishonest or conducive to corruption while (f) provides for the Commission’s investigators to “Examine the practice and procedures of public bodies.”

Also providing direction for the Panel will be Sections 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Section 3 speaks about accepting of offering or soliciting gratification; Section 4 provides guidance on offences in relation to corrupt activities relating to public officers; Section 5 which provides guidance about offences in relations to corrupt activities regarding contract; Section 7 which provides guidance about offences in relation to corrupt activities relating to tenders and Section 8 which provides guidance about offences in relation to acquisition of private interest in contract, agreement or investment of public body.

The commission said that subsequent to the completion of the commission’s investigations and conduct of the inquiry, the report will be handed over to Her Excellency the Governor General, the Director of Public Prosecution and the Minister with responsibility for the MNIB who at present is Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell.

Penalties for any person who violate sections of these two pieces of legislation include disqualification from holding any public office for 7 years and jail term of 3 years.

A person who attempts to obstruct or obstructs a member or an employee of the Integrity Commission in the performance of his or her function pursuant to the provision of the Prevention of Corruption legislation, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding EC$10,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 1 year.

A public officer who fails to comply with a request from the commission can also be fined EC$10,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or both.

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