The Unity Labour Party (ULP) government is committed to the introduction of integrity legislation but is not prepared to give a time frame.
“And that’s why I included it, I argued for it to be included as a constitutional requirement. I asked for, as a matter of constitutional law, not of statue law, that an integrity commission be included It was voted down,” Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told a press conference this week.
An integrity commission was part of proposed changes to the nation’s Constitution that citizens rejected in a vote in 2009.
Gonsalves was asked about integrity legislation when he held his annual town hall meeting with Vincentian in New York on Saturday.
He said that integrity legislation could deter persons from public service since they might have to declare also the assets and liabilities of their spouses, even as the compensation for some types of public administration is minimal.
Integrity legislation was a speaking point for the ULP during the lead-up to the March 2001 elections, when the party first came to office.
Former national security minister and ULP member, Sir Vincent Beache, who is now retired from politics, promised integrity legislation in 100 days, saying if it is not passed, “don’t look for me”.
On Monday, Gonsalves was asked if the ULP had considered some of the things he spoke about on Saturday, when it promised integrity legislation 12 years ago.
“We had; but you may take things into consideration but not necessarily give the weight and as the matter meanders through various drafts and I see how the matter is unfolding and the problems even in Trinidad and Tobago with the implementation of it, that, how can we strengthen the anti-corruption regime and the perception of it?
“How can we strengthen it, without, at the same time, undermining the overall efficacy of public administration?” he further said.
He said that in Trinidad and Tobago, the judges ruled that the integrity legislation was unconstitutional in relation to judges, because the judicial and legal services commission supervises judges.
Gonsalves further said that his Dominica colleagues, Roosevelt Skerrit, has difficulty in getting people to serve as chair and members of statutory boards.
“There are statutory entities where the chairmen hardly get any money,” Gonsalves further said in relations to St. Vincent, adding that compensation range from EC$500, to EC$4,000.
“How are you going to get persons to take these jobs? … Who is gonna serve as members of boards if you have submit to put your assets and liabilities out — every cent that you bank anywhere, any mortgage that you have, not only for yourself [but also] your spouse, your children?
“People will say it is just not worth it. The same thing relates to members of Parliament. The same thing will relate to public servants, senior public servants,” he further said.
“So, these are practical questions which mature leadership have to reflect on,” he said.
Gonsalves said that existing legislation makes provision against corruption in public administration.
“There are several offences for which public administrators can be brought up on,” he further said, adding that any integrity legislation has to consider how to have a declaration of assets “without imposing onerous burdens on persons who are willing to serve.
“… So, I answer you in that genuine and open manner, seeking to balance all the considerations,” he further said.