Mon | Jul 15, 2024

Government lashes Integrity Commission

Published:Thursday | June 8, 2023 | 1:42 AM
Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck
Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck
Robert Montague
Robert Montague
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JUSTICE MINISTER Delroy Chuck yesterday declared that Jamaica’s single anti-corruption body has no “integrity” and that government lawmakers had no confidence in the reports published by the corruption watchdog.

“The commission has demonstrated a certain bias, a certain unfairness, which demonstrates that this Integrity Commission lacks integrity,” he declared.

He made the remarks yesterday while commenting on a Motion of Adjournment moved by Member of Parliament for St Mary Western, Robert Montague.

The Motion of Adjournment spoke to an addendum that was sent to Parliament by the Integrity Commission to address concerns previously raised by opposition Senator Peter Bunting.

Montague lashed the Integrity Commission, accusing it of being biased after the anti-corruption body exonerated Bunting, who was a former minister of national security, in its addendum following its March 2022 damning report on his stewardship as minister.

The St Mary Western MP, now a backbencher, who also was a former minister of national security, yesterday ripped into the commission, charging that it had ignored his protestations that he did not act improperly in the whole affair.

The Integrity Commission had highlighted six instances in which Montague overruled the FLA and approved gun permits to persons with criminal traces whose applications were either denied or their licences revoked.

Montague complained bitterly that the commission was biased, signalling that it addressed the concerns raised by Bunting, but to date, had not seen it fit to review his objections to the original special report of the commission.

GOOD FAITH

He has said consistently that as a minister, he exercised his discretion in good faith and acted at all times in accordance with the law.

Yesterday, Montague recalled that his concerns had been published in two national newspapers in April 2022.

“The Integrity Commission would have seen and read that public statement. There was a deafening silence then. There was no review of its report then. But another public statement is made and the commission tables an addendum. It’s like there is one rule for some and another for others. This demonstrates bias, malice, and prejudice,” he charged.

He urged the Integrity Commission parliamentary oversight committee to review the original report to see if “the principles of equality, openness, and fairness were applied”.

Montague also asked the Speaker of the House to seek the legal advice of the attorney general’s chambers on the administrative and investigative processes of the Integrity Commission to ensure that it is guided by the principles of fairness and justice in carrying out its functions.

At the same time, yesterday, Chuck acknowledged that corruption was a major problem affecting the country, noting that the Parliament must be united in weeding out corrupt practices.

He said that while the work of the commission should be supported, it appeared that the anti-corruption body was not acting “fairly and equitably”.

Turning to the Leadership Code of Conduct, Chuck said that no member on the government side had seen the document.

The code was sent by the commission to the Office of the Prime Minister in November 2022 for the head of government to sign the document on behalf of his Cabinet ministers.

According to the commission, the prime minister is yet to respond to its invitation to sign the code.