Tue | Sep 26, 2023

Integrity Commission fires back at Malahoo Forte

Published:Wednesday | June 7, 2023 | 12:05 AM

Jamaica’s single anti-corruption body, the Integrity Commission (IC), has described as unfortunate Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte’s comments in relation to its push for government ministers to sign its Leadership Code of Conduct.

The minister had claimed that the IC was seeking to shame the Cabinet for not signing the document. However, the Commission said Malahoo Forte has remained silent on why Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the Cabinet, including herself, are yet to ink the document.

“She appears to be bothered by the fact that the Commission has been advising the public of the public officials who have signed the code,” the IC said.

To date, only Opposition Leader Mark Golding and 10 members of his Shadow Cabinet have signed the code.

The anti-corruption body said it was still awaiting a response from the prime minister to its letter of November 15, 2022, inviting him and his Cabinet to sign the code.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Commission said that, despite the fact that the specialised anti-corruption and good governance workshops upon which the code was predicated were initiated by the prime minister, the head of government was yet to respond to the IC’s letter of November 15, 2022.

The Commission said that, while there is no legal requirement imposed upon any public official to commit to the code, an official’s formal subscription to the code “will obviously be a clear demonstration to the people of Jamaica of the standards of integrity, governance and accountability that he/she is prepared to submit himself/herself to as the holder of a high public office”.

Added the Commission: “Likewise, and conversely, a failure on the part of any Jamaica political leader, or representative, to formally commit to the code, for whatever reason, will also signal to Jamaicans the type of leadership and accountability that they should not expect from him/her.”

SEVEN PRINCIPLES OF PUBLIC LIFE

The Commission’s Leadership Code of Conduct is recognised throughout the Commonwealth as the Seven Principles of Public Life. It guides ministers of government and parliamentarians in the United Kingdom, and in other countries which have adopted it, as to the standards by which political leaders should be measured and held accountable.

Among other things, the Seven Principles of Public Life speak to the ideals of Leadership; Honesty; Openness; Accountability; and Integrity.

The Commission said the Seven Principles of Public Life are non-negotiable and are considered the desired standard for good governance, leadership, integrity, and conduct in public affairs, and in the discharge of public functions.

Addressing a joint select committee of Parliament reviewing the Integrity Commission Act, 2017, last week, 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.”

The Commission said it was adamant that it is serving the public interest, by bringing transparency to the issue that is of significant public interest.

Malahoo Forte had said the Commission should “request a formal meeting with either the Cabinet or the Parliamentary Body”.

However, the IC said it has already met formally with the Cabinet on no less than 10 occasions – between November 2020 and February 2021.

It said the purpose of those meetings was for the Commission to administer the training that Malahoo Forte has now “unwittingly conceded” should be the forerunner to the issue of the IC’s Code of Conduct.

According to the IC, it was the prime minister who came up with the idea of the training when the Commission’s executive director, Greg Christie, paid a courtesy call on him on June 9, 2020.

At the meeting, the prime minister invited Christie to speak with his Cabinet members on the issue of corruption.

The Commission, through its executive director, developed and administered the specialised workshops to the Cabinet and the Shadow Cabinet.

The anti-corruption body made it clear that its Leadership Code of Conduct was mandated by the very Parliament in which Malahoo Forte sat in 2017 when the Integrity Commission Act was passed into law.

“The Commission will not be frightened or intimidated to act in any way that is contrary to the public interest. Nor will it subject itself to the undue influence or desires of any person, official or authority, while discharging its lawful functions under the law.”