Tue | May 28, 2024

CHARGES LOOM

Ex-MP, RGD CEO, former SIA boss to face court over statutory declarations

Published:Wednesday | April 24, 2024 | 12:13 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Former Westmoreland Central MP Dwayne Vaz.
Former Westmoreland Central MP Dwayne Vaz.
George Callaghan, former Sugar Industry Authority CEO.
George Callaghan, former Sugar Industry Authority CEO.
Charlton McFarlane, CEO of the Registrar General’s Department.
Charlton McFarlane, CEO of the Registrar General’s Department.
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Former Westmoreland Central Member of Parliament Dwayne Vaz is facing charges for breaching Section 43(1)(b) of the Integrity Commission Act (ICA).

At the same time, a senior public servant is in trouble with the anti-corruption body for failing to submit statutory declarations for four years. Chief Executive Officer of the Registrar General’s Department, Charlton McFarlane, is facing charges for failing to submit his statutory declarations for 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The Director of Corruption Prosecutions (DCP) Keisha Prince-Kameka ruled that McFarlane should be charged for breaching Section 43(1)(a) of the ICA.

The DCP’s ruling also cited McFarlane for failure to comply with a notice issued under Section 41(6) of the ICA.

On March 7, 2023, the IC said it served a notice on McFarlane, which required him to file the outstanding statutory declarations within 30 days of receiving the notice.

The IC said the notice expired and McFarlane did not submit the outstanding statutory declarations.

The anti-corruption body said it also served a notice on McFarlane to pay a fixed penalty in keeping with Section 43(3) of the ICA on June 9.

In addition, the commission said McFarlane was given 30 days by the IC to pay the fixed penalty to Tax Administration Jamaica and to submit the outstanding statutory declaration to the commission.

The director of investigation said checks with the director of information and complaints division revealed that, to date, McFarlane has failed to comply with the notice.

The commission said for an offence to be committed under Section 43(3)(a) under the ICA it must be proved that the officer concerned is required to file statutory declarations under the ICA; the obligation to file was not discharged and no reasonable cause was advanced to justify the concerned officer’s failure to comply with the requirement to file.

LEGAL OBLIGATION

By virtue of being a public official and in receipt of emoluments in excess of $3.5 million, the IC said McFarlane was legally obligated to file statutory declaration with the commission for the years 2019 to 2022.

The director of investigation concludes that McFarlane was given every opportunity to comply in the first instance and having not complied, he was given the option to discharge his liability by paying a fixed penalty and to submit the outstanding statutory declarations to the commission. The IC said neither option was utilised.

Yesterday, it was also revealed, in a decision handed down by Prince-Kameka, that Vaz, who is currently the People’s National Party’s caretaker for Westmoreland Central, should be charged for breaching the ICA.

This charge was highlighted in a ruling by the DCP which was tabled in Parliament.

Director of Investigation at the IC Kevon Stephenson said in his investigation report to Parliament that Vaz failed to provide information to the IC on his statutory declaration despite requests by the anti-corruption body.

He said the former MP was legally obligated to file his statutory declaration with the commission for 2019.

Stephenson said that Vaz’s failure to provide the requested information contravenes section 43(1)(b) of the ICA.

The director of investigation said that the former PNP lawmaker was given an opportunity to discharge liability by paying the fixed penalty and submitting the requested information. However, Stephenson concludes that Vaz only complied with the latter and therefore failed to discharge his liability consistent with Section 43(3) of the ICA.

However, in a media statement yesterday, Vaz sought to clarify his “adherence to the requirements set forth by the Integrity Commission Act”.

Providing a “timeline of events and compliance efforts” Vaz said the IC confirmed that his statutory declaration up to December 31, 2019, was duly completed in accordance with the law.

He said on March 26, 2024 he received a summons to appear before the Half Way Tree Parish Court on charges of failing to provide required information to the IC.

“The hearing, held on April 9, 2024, brought to light a misunderstanding regarding these charges, which appeared to contradict the 2021 confirmation of compliance from the IC. I was charged for failure to submit declarations, which is untrue and has been verified by the May 18, 2021 letter received from the commission,” he said.

According to Vaz, the court “recognised the inconsistency in the information presented. I have been given the opportunity to review the commission’s documentation further and am scheduled to return to court on April 30, 2024.”

He claimed that the lawyers representing the IC were unaware of the May 18, 2021 letter from the IC certifying his declaration.

Meanwhile, the DCP has said that former Chief Executive Officer of the Sugar Industry Authority (SIA) George Callaghan should be charged for breaching section 43(2)(a) of the ICA for knowingly making a false statement in a statutory declaration for the periods ending December 31, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com