Last week, it was reported that the UK Government, through the Department for International Development, is providing the Jamaica Integrity Commission with approximately £ 550,000 for institutional strengthening in the following key areas: (i) the development of an electronic filing filing system with the Commission ; (ii) draft Regulations in support of the Integrity Commission Act; (iii) produce a pollution risk assessment; and (iv) develop a national anti-corruption strategy. The Commission has engaged the services of consultants to carry out these tasks.
In today’s article, we discuss the work of the Jamaica Integrity Commission as there are important lessons to be learned in relation to the operation of our Integrity Commission. This is especially true, given that Guyana is now an oil producing nation with the expectation of a significant flow of oil revenue to the Treasury. As former National Assembly Spokesperson Ralph Ramkarran puts it in his November 22 column in the Stabroek News:
Guyana is entering a new era in which we have little or no experience. The doors are wide open for large-scale abuse, bullying, conflicts of interest, theft, bribery, corruption and other trauma that have afflicted most oil producing countries … It should not ‘ The question may be if we need an enforceable code of conduct.
It should be how fast we can get it replaced. If public opinion raises this issue, a voluntary, non-enforceable code may be sought. This would be a waste of time. It would not be enforced. The Integrity Commission, in an extended role, could meet the requirements of an investigating body.
Jamaica Integrity Commission Act
The Jamaica Integrity Commission is a Parliamentary Commission, responsible and accountable to Parliament which is responsible for monitoring and reporting to Parliament on the operations and effectiveness of the Integrity Commission Act. The Commission came into being on 22 February 2018 following the passing of the Act in the House of Representatives in January 2017 and was approved, with 103 amendments, by Parliament. The Act merged the roles, activities and responsibilities of the Office of the General Contractor, the Corruption Prevention Commission, and the Integrity Commission into a single anti-corruption agency to promote and improve standards of ethical conduct for parliamentarians, public officials, others as well as prevention , detecting, investigating and prosecuting acts of corruption.
In the same month that the Commission was established, the Commissioners were sworn in. In July 2019, the Jamaican Parliament approved the Commission’s organizational structure.
The Commission’s mandate, mission and vision
The Commission’s motto “United Against Corruption” is its mandate, and its mandate is to promote and improve standards of ethical conduct for parliamentarians, public officials, and other persons. The Commission’s mission is to enable an organized and non-corrupt society for citizens, residents, visitors and investors while ensuring the efficient use of public resources. Its vision is for Jamaica to achieve a score of 80 out of 100 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), with 80 percent of public contracts completed on time, budget and value and fully complying with procedures and procurement statements. For 2019, Jamaica has scored 43 on the CPI. The Act defines corruption as one which includes’ an offense relating to the conduct of any person who abuses or abuses his position (whether within the Public Sector or not) for the purposes of to give himself or herself an advantage or advantage. another person… ‘.
The Act provides for the appointment of five Commissioners by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. The Auditor General is a permanent member of the Commission, while the other four members are appointed from retired judges, retired public officers with appropriate training and experience, and representatives of non-governmental organizations. The current members are Justice Seymour Panton (Chairman), Pamela Ellis (Chartered Accountant and Auditor General), Eric Crawford (Chartered Accountant), Justice Lloyd Hibbert, and Wayne Powell (Justice of the Peace). Their tenure of office should not exceed seven years, and their appointment may be renewed.
Governance and oversight is provided by the Board of Directors consisting of the five Commissioners, while the Executive Director is responsible for the day-to-day management. There is one legal officer, five Regional Directors and 98 technical and support staff. The Board operates through six sub-committees, namely Audit and Finance, Information and Complaints, Investigations, Human Resources and Governance, Prosecutions and Internal Affairs.
There are three operational divisions – the Investigation Division, the Information and Complaints Division, and the Pollution Prosecution Division. The Investigation Division is responsible for investigating allegations of non-compliance with the provisions of the Act; monitor and investigate the award and execution of government contracts, licenses and licenses; and investigating alleged corrupt acts concerning the statutory declaration of parliamentarians and public officials; and any other matter falling within the jurisdiction of the Commission. It has four operational units covering construction and other contracts, special investigations and financial investigations.
The Information and Complaints Division is responsible for, among others: (i) receiving, recording and auditing all statutory declarations filed with the Commission; (ii) make such inquiries as are considered necessary to certify or determine the accuracy of a statutory declaration; (iii) receive and record complaints or information or report allegations of acts of corruption, impropriety or irregularity in the award of government contracts or licenses, or allegations of non-compliance with the Act.
The Pollution Prosecution Division is responsible for: (i) the prosecution of acts of corruption and offenses committed under the Act; (ii) provide advice to the Commission on acts of corruption and offenses under the Act; and (iii) co-operate with the Asset Recovery Agency in relation to the seizure, prevention, forfeiture or recovery of any property relating to acts of corruption.
Annual report to Parliament
The Act requires the Commission to report to Parliament within three months at the end of the financial year on matters generally relating to the discharge of its functions during the preceding financial year in accordance with Second Schedule. Information to report includes:
A general description of the matters referred to the Commission;
A general description of the matters investigated by the Commission, including: (i) the number of investigations initiated but not finally dealt with during the financial year in question; and (ii) the average time taken to deal with complaints and the actual time taken to investigate any matter in respect of which a report is made;
Any recommendations for changes to Jamaican laws, or for administrative action, which the Commission considers should be made as a result of the exercise of its functions;
The general nature and extent of any information submitted under the Act by the Commission during the year to the Security Forces or any other public body;
The number of issues investigated by the Commission that resulted in prosecutions or disciplinary action in that year;
The number of convictions and acquittals, and when a charge is laid, the time taken to dispose of each matter;
Such other information as the Commission considers relevant. However, no details should be provided in relation to any matter under investigation by the Director of Investigation or for which the Director of Corruption Prosecution has instituted criminal proceedings; a
The Commission’s audited financial statements for the financial year.
On 30 June 2020, the Commission published its second annual report to Parliament relating to the financial year 2019/2020. The report can be viewed at: https://integrity.gov.jm/sites/default/files/annual_report/Integrity%20Commission%20-%20Annual%20Report%202019-2020.pdf.
From the above analysis, one can have several flaws in relation to the mandate and operations of the Guyana Integrity Commission. We will discuss these in our next article along with our recommendations.