Mon | Oct 14, 2019

Calls mount for Integrity Commission review as chairman quits

Published:Tuesday | September 3, 2019 | 12:30 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer
Justice Karl Harrison.
Justice Karl Harrison.

Anti-corruption campaigners are calling for legislators to immediately undertake a full review of the Integrity Commission Act following yesterday’s revelation that chairman of the anti-corruption watchdog, retired Court of Appeal judge, Justice Karl Harrison, had resigned.

In an interview with RJR News yesterday, Justice Harrison said his reasons for resigning were “confidential and personal”.

The development comes after news surfaced last week that acting director of corruption prosecutions at the commission, Dirk Harrison, had indicated in an August 4 letter to Governor General Sir Patrick Allen that he would be proceeding on to retirement on September 1.

The chairman and former director are not related.

National Integrity Action Executive Director Professor Trevor Munroe said that while the chairman’s resignation does not spell doom for the Integrity Commission, it signals the need for a review of the legislation that governs the operations of the agency.

“That review should, in my opinion, receive and consider submissions from the public, but it should give priority to implementing recommendations from the commission itself and from members of the public and from the NIA to amend the law so that the commission may be more open with the citizens, to amend the regulations to make the commission more effective, more transparent, more accountable in its operations,” Munroe said.

Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) President Howard Mitchell described the development as “unfortunate”.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the commission that has been established to ensure honesty and transparency in public life doesn’t appear to have structural integrity. It can’t hold together. I think that the Government needs to move quickly to put it on a good footing, amend the law to provide it with teeth,” Mitchell told The Gleaner.

CREDIBILITY PROBLEM

“And also what it is clear is that the appointments that should have been made under the law, which have not been made, must now be made. It doesn’t appear credible. The commission does not appear credible and it’s a matter of concern,” the PSOJ president said.

Reiterating his call for the immediate establishment of the parliamentary oversight committee of the Integrity Commission, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips said that this is an appropriate time for a review of the act, given recent developments at the agency.

In a statement yesterday, Phillips said the exit of the two commission members highlights the crisis surrounding the body.

The Integrity Commission Act was passed in 2017, establishing the anti-corruption body to promote and enhance standards of ethical conduct for parliamentarians, public and other persons.

nickoy.wilson@gleanerjm.com