Media release 29/06/22
Former Integrity Commission chairman calls on President Paula Mae Weekes to review Commission’s board members
Former chairman of the Integrity Commission, Ken Gordon, says that an effective Integrity Commission is not only good for our country, but it is necessary. He added that there must be the authority for effective implementation as without it the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA) is little more than a recitation of good intent and an exercise in futility.
He called on President Paula Mae Weekes to decide whether the present members of the Commission are fit to serve saying that she should be fully briefed on the issues surrounding the resignation of former deputy chairman retired High Court judge Sebastian Ventour.
Gordon made this call in a presentation titled “Recommendations to Improve the Integrity in Public Life Act”. He was speaking at Governance Week 2022, an annual event hosted virtually by the Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute (CCGI). The theme of Governance Week is “Developing the Conscience of the Board”.
Referring to the 2015 resignation of Justice Ventour, over the “Emailgate” issue, Gordon said that Ventour had “acted in accordance with the highest traditions of principled behaviour.” Ventour had resigned over a statement issued, despite his objections, by the Commission stating that there was insufficient evidence to continue the investigation.
In 2013, the IC began investigating allegations made by then-Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who in Parliament read out printouts of emails purporting to be from key Government ministers engaged in various conspiracies.
“Did members of the Commission acting in spite of the caution given to them by the Deputy Chairman misbehave in office in accordance with Section 8 (2) (e) of the Act?” Gordon asked. “Should their appointments have been terminated by the President?” He further questioned whether the President genuinely failed to understand the importance of having this matter investigated.
“These are highly sensitive issues which require integrity and courage if decisions are to be respected,” he said. “Qualities which appear to have been sadly missing from the Commissioners in these circumstances. But issues of such importance can no longer be swept under the carpet. Not if we are serious about transformational change and transparency.”
Gordon made seven recommendations to improve the IC. These included President Weekes reviewing the circumstances that led to Ventour’s resignation; a cost-benefit analysis of the requirement that persons serving on public boards declare their assets; that the Opposition Leader be included among persons choosing the IC chairman; and that Prime Minister Keith Rowley refrain from “public humiliation” of the Commission.
Gordon also noted that eight recommendations proposed in the Integrity in Public Life (Amendment) Bill 2014 under his tenure had been sent to the Office of the Attorney General to submit to Cabinet.
“To the best of my knowledge, a response is still awaited after eight years,” he said.
He noted that the Commission today continues to address the mounting problems of its task with yesterday’s tools and that counterparts in New South Wales, Singapore and Hong Kong had fixed similar issues with excellent results.
He called for the inclusion of a provision imposing a duty on persons exercising public functions and to report any act in which he/she suspects any concern or corrupt conduct; and for arrangements be put in place in order to facilitate the exchange of information between the Board of Inland Revenue, the Police Service, Customs, Immigration and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). This to avoid duplication, enhance investigation and cooperation, and facilitate handling of investigations.
Our sponsors for Governance Week 2022:First Citizens Bank Our Gold Sponsor, Republic Bank Limited, our silver sponsor and three bronze sponsors JMMB Group Ltd, PwC and Angostura Limited.
From the Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute
Contact CEO Kamla Rampersad de Silva at 868-221-8707
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