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Name them! - Calder wants uncleared lawmakers to be identified in annual report of Integrity Commission

Published:Tuesday | November 24, 2020 | 12:14 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Jeanette Calder
Jeanette Calder

Anti-corruption advocate Jeanette Calder is raising questions as to why delinquent lawmakers are not named in the annual report of the Integrity Commission for failing to provide additional information to complete the examination of their statutory declarations, while the oversight body identifies ministers in reports on alleged acts of corruption.

“There is a bit of an anomaly,” she said, noting that “the same law is saying that at the conclusion of a probe, as long as it relates to the assets of a member of parliament (MP), you are not going to be privy to the conclusions of that investigation”.

In its annual report tabled in the Parliament last June, the Integrity Commission reported that two members of parliament at the time and three former parliamentarians were referred to the director of corruption prosecution.

The Integrity Commission said that four of “these persons were reported for non-presentation of additional information required to complete the examination of their statutory declarations and one for non-presentation of statutory declaration”. It said that one of the parliamentarians who had been in breach subsequently presented all the information requested by the oversight body.

Calder, who is the executive director of the Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal (JAMP), said: “We were told that the gag order (Section 53:3) is there because there used to be an announcement at the beginning of an investigation, but we have received an annual report where we can be told that at the completion of the processing, interrogation and investigation of the assets process, we know that this MP should be put before the court, but we will not be given a name.”

She said this issue must be interrogated by the public as to why, in one instance, a member of parliament can be named at the end of an investigation but not in another.

The JAMP boss argued that under the previous Parliament Integrity of Members Act, the public knew which parliamentarians could not be cleared if there were questions about their statutory declarations.

“I cannot think of any other legislation where the persons who have committed a breach and offence, others are being denied the right to know that you have committed it, and these are our elected officials,” she said.

The JAMP executive director observed that in September, the country went to the polls to elect 63 members of parliament, some of whom have been appointed to the executive.

Calder contended that at least two members of parliament could not clear the integrity test, yet Jamaicans went to the polls not knowing which of these persons who offered themselves for re-election committed a breach under a law that deals with integrity and honesty.

Section 53:3 of the Integrity Commission Act prohibits the anti-corruption oversight body from commenting on an investigation before it is tabled in both Houses of Parliament.

In July, when members of the Integrity Commission appeared before a parliamentary committee of a similar name, Greg Christie, the executive director, was questioned about legacy reports under investigation for more than two years.

Christie was at pains to point out that the law silenced his team from commenting on investigations being conducted by the anti-corruption oversight body.

“One of the things I was crucified for was for announcing investigations, but that was one way you could track what I am doing,” Christie told the committee in July 2020.

He made it clear that while the commission was obliged to obey the law, the oversight body was also accountable to the people of Jamaica.