Sun | Sep 15, 2019

Archbishop presses Holness on Integrity filings

Published:Friday | May 24, 2019 | 12:31 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer

Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ failure to get the all-clear from the Integrity Commission in the filing of his statutory declarations has raised concern from Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kingston, the Rev Kenneth Richards, who says it is incumbent that the head of government lead by example.

Howard Mitchell and Lloyd Distant, leaders of two of Jamaica’s most powerful business lobbies, have also pressed the prime minister on the anti-corruption watchdog’s declaration in a May 13 press briefing that he and seven other current and former parliamentarians have not been cleared in its 2017 report.

Richards, who spoke with The Gleaner on Wednesday, alluded to Holness’ commitment to the people of Jamaica, at his swearing-in, in 2016, that he would stamp out even the hint of corruption.

“That offered great hope to our country. He said he was going to be doing everything to ensure corruption is not a part of his government,” said the archbishop. “But to hear that he has not himself complied with the guidelines, with respect to reporting his statutory declarations, it questions his commitment and will start eating away at his credibility and our own faith in him as a person who does what he says he will do.”

Richards urged all public servants to comply with the statute mandating the declaration of income, assets, and liabilities.

“I don’t know what it is that leaders find difficult in making their declarations. ... This will give a sense of believability when they fulfil requirements that are there for them to uphold. There has to be some commitment and action on their part that they intend to clean up and remove corruption as part of a staple of government and a staple in society. It is important that as leader, he provides that kind of example,” the archbishop said.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Even though sources close to the prime minister told The Gleaner on Wednesday that the prime minister had submitted additional documentation to the Integrity Commission on April 16, the oversight body said, one month later, that the status of Holness and seven other parliamentarians had still not changed.

David Grey, director of investigations at the commission, indicated receipt of the documents, a source said.

There has been no indication of whether the Integrity Commission has requested further information since or whether it was satisfied with Holness’ response.

The Integrity Commission’s report was tabled in the House of Representatives on April 30.

Despite several Gleaner inquiries, the Office of the Prime Minister has declined comment on what documentary or other information might be stalling the Integrity Commission’s endorsement.

The other serving and former parliamentarians cited to be in breach by the Integrity Commission are Zavia Mayne, Luther Buchanan, Leslie Campbell, Ian Hayles, Ruel Reid, Keith Walford, and Arnaldo Brown.

Reid, who was sacked as education minister weeks ago, is under criminal investigation, the commissioner of police revealed more than a week ago.

British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad last week called for the Integrity Commission to crack down on perceived ambivalence of public officials to their legal obligation to open their books to scrutiny.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com