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Malahoo Forte rips IC for ‘shaming approach’

Published:Saturday | June 3, 2023 | 1:11 AM
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Marlene Malahoo Forte
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Marlene Malahoo Forte

Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte has accused the Integrity Commission (IC) of seeking to embarrass the Cabinet for failing to sign the Leadership Code of Conduct.

It is the first time that a member of the Holness administration has expressed a clear view on the Leadership Code of Conduct that the IC asked the head of government and members of his Cabinet to sign more than six months ago.

Her remarks came on Thursday during the deliberations of a joint select committee reviewing the Integrity Commission Act, 2017 at Gordon House.

Addressing the issue of codes of conduct, against the background of a recommendation made by radio station Best FM, Malahoo Forte said: “We know that the Integrity Commission has been putting out in the media who has signed the code that they have put out and who hasn’t signed. And instead of requesting a formal meeting with either the Cabinet or the parliamentary body, they have gone all over the place with a shaming approach.”

Malahoo Forte further stated: “I am just looking at the thing from a point of view which says, let us look at the substance separate from an undesirable approach that has been taken.”

The minister also raised questions in relation to codes of conduct.

“What do we want from codes of conduct? What, properly, is their place, because this is an extremely topical issue at this time, and then how should they be treated?”

Opposition Leader Mark Golding and members of his shadow Cabinet were also invited to sign the document which, among other things, commits each leader to honesty, accountability and openness in fulfilling their public duties.

To date, neither the prime minister nor any member of his Cabinet has inked the document that invites them to subscribe to what is also termed the seven principles of public life.

At the same time, Golding and 10 members of his shadow Cabinet have signed the code.

Amid widespread public outcry and sharp criticisms over the massive pay hike that the Government has approved for the political directorate, Holness told journalists recently that he would be tabling in Parliament a written job description and code of ethics for ministers.

Edmund Bartlett, chairman of the joint select committee reviewing the Integrity Commission Act, 2017, suggested that the committee defer discussion on the recommendations surrounding codes of conduct.

In April, Robert Morgan, the minister with responsibility for information, was asked if the prime minister or any member of the Cabinet had signed the Leadership Code of Conduct and if not, why not?

He told journalists during a post-Cabinet press briefing that “no code of conduct has been presented to me to sign”.

He made it clear that as a Cabinet minister, he has not been presented with a code of conduct.

“I am pretty much unable to comment on a code of conduct that I have never seen or had any discussion with anyone about,” he said at the time.

On November 15, 2022, the IC emailed a letter along with the Leadership Code of Conduct commitment document to the Office of the Prime Minister. A hard copy was hand-delivered on the same day.

In an earlier query, Greg Christie, executive director of the Integrity Commission, told The Gleaner that Merle Donaldson, of the Office of the Prime Minister, confirmed to the commission that she had received the letter on November 16, 2022, at approximately 8:43 a.m.

Parliamentarians in 2017 gave the nod to Section 6(1) (g) of the Integrity Commission Act, which gives the anti-corruption body the mandate “to prepare codes of conduct and other advisory material relating to corruption”.