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Just when one would believe the issues within the Integrity Commission were over and the anti-corruption watchdog would once again function in a cohesive manner, the Opposition has begun to compound the issue. There is now a demand for an oversight committee to be formed, to track the activities of the Commission. The Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, has even moved for a resolution in the Parliament to this effect. If the legislators agree, that would mean having a watchdog over a watchdog! That is how democracies function sometimes.
Opposition Cites Lack of Transparency
The last interaction the members of the Integrity Commission had with the media, and the statement released by its Chairman, Justice Karl Harrison, should have settled the issue. The sticking point, however, is the sale of property in St. Ann at a much-reduced value than what was assessed. The then OCG had mentioned intervention by a government minister in the transaction, giving political fodder to the opposition.
The information being sought by the opposition is being withheld by the Integrity Commission, by referring to provisions in the Integrity Commission Act that allow them such confidentiality. The reason the opposition is asking for this information is so that they may be reviewed and amended, if feasible.
Dr. Peter Phillips Gives the Government 14 Days to Assemble the Committee
In a resolution that the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, moved in the Parliament, it has been asked that a committee be formed within 14 days. Moreover, this is expected to happen, and the committee to file its report, before the current session of the Parliament is concluded. What the precise mandate of that committee will be, has not been made specific.
Apart from the political leadership, some sections of the civil society have also been demanding that the full findings of the OCG in the St. Ann deal be made public. Interestingly, one of the five members of the Integrity Commission, Mr. Seymour Panton, a retired judge, has issued a similar call. He has said that the legal clauses that impede transparency in the working of the Integrity Commission must be amended. That will help with negating the criticism the IC faces now and silence those who question its impartiality.
The demand made by Dr. Peter Phillips is not very different. He also says a Joint Panel comprising members of both Houses of Parliament be constituted to go into the Integrity Commission Act and remove the obstacles to the Commission functioning transparently.