Friday 28 February, 2020

Integrity Commission must be allowed to work, says Johnson Smith

Senator Kamina Johnson Smith (file photo)

Senator Kamina Johnson Smith (file photo)

Despite mounting concerns and criticisms regarding the performance of the Integrity Commission, Government Senator, Kamina Johnson Smith, says the entity must be allowed to carry out its mandated functions.

The senator was responding in the Upper House to Opposition Senator, Lambert Brown, who called for the appointment of an oversight committee by the Government to monitor the performance of the Integrity Commission.

In addition, he also urged the Government to give the Integrity Commission the full staff it needs to conduct its functions.

But Johnson Smith told the Senate that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration has done everything to ensure that the Integrity Commission carries out its functions.

"Mr President, we have passed the Integrity Commission legislation. We have provided the budget and..., the consultancy support to ensure that the Integrity Commission itself is established," she stated.

While admitting that the commission has experienced "hiccups", Johnson Smith said it must be given time to work.

"It (the Integrity Commission) has had some hiccups, but any objective person would recognise that the merger of three long-existing institutions into one, and the creation of an entirely new body, must take some time, and we must allow the system to work," she argued.

Johnson Smith, who is also Leader of Government Business in the Senate, contended that while a review of the commission can be considered, it is not right to suggest that the Government has not been doing anything regarding corruption.

"Not that it (the Integrity Commission) is not right for review; perhaps it is, and the law provides for that. That may be something that can be considered, but to say that we are not doing anything and to just label the Administration as corrupt, just loses the credibility of the argument," Johnson Smith suggested.

The Integrity Commission, which was established in February 2018, is mandated to promote and enhance standards of ethical conduct for parliamentarians, public officials and other persons by consolidating laws relating to the prevention of corruption and the award, monitoring and investigating of Government contracts and prescribed licences; and strengthen the measures for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of acts of corruption.

The entity was developed pursuant to Sections 1 and 5 of the Integrity Commission Act, 2017, which allowed the Office of the Contractor General (OCG), the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC), and the Integrity Commission (Integrity of Parliament Members) (IC) to be fully subsumed into the Integrity Commission.

However, the new anti-corruption body has been plagued by a series of resignations among its members and officers.

Earlier this month, Derrick McKoy, an attorney-at-law and former contractor general, resigned from the Integrity Commission after being appointed on March, 2018, just weeks after the body came into inception. It was the second resignation from the commission within a year, with Justice Karl Harrison stepping down as Chairman last July.

McKoy’s resignation also followed the departure of former Contractor General, Dirk Harrison, who retired from the Integrity Commission as Acting Director of Corruption Prosecution in September of last year.

Retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Lloyd Hibbert, in October, took the spot left vacant by Karl Harrison’s resignation, with another retired jurist, Justice Seymour Panton, being then elevated to the chairmanship of the Integrity Commission.

In December last year, Keisha Prince, a deputy director of public prosecution in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP), was seconded to the commission for a period of six months to act as Director of Corruption Prosecution. She took the spot left vacant by the retirement of Dirk Harrison.

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