Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Panton supports, but doesn’t expect, entrenchment of Integrity Commission in Constitution

Published:Thursday | June 13, 2024 | 12:11 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Retired Justice Seymour Panton, chairman of the Integrity Commission.
Retired Justice Seymour Panton, chairman of the Integrity Commission.

Commissioners of the Integrity Commission are of the view that the anti-corruption body should have the protection of the Jamaican Constitution.

The view has been expressed by the commissioners in light of a comment made by former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, who recently engaged in a discussion at The University of the West Indies on the reform of the Constitution.

Patterson said he had hoped that having abandoned a proposal in the Kerr Report to include impeachment proceedings against parliamentarians, the Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC) would have proposed the entrenchment of the Integrity Commission in the Constitution.

In responding to a Gleaner query on Patterson’s assertion, Chairman of the Integrity Commission Seymour Panton said the commissioners would support any proposal to place the Integrity Commission in the Constitution.

However, Panton said: “We don’t see it happening now as there is great resistance in some quarters to the principle of accountability.”

Danielle Archer, principal director of National Integrity Action, said the entrenchment of the Integrity Commission in the Constitution would safeguard it from being dissolved on “the whim of any administration”.

Archer added: “It demonstrates that the legislators have placed the office they occupy above self and are determined to do all that is necessary to ensure that only members of unquestioned integrity occupy our Parliament and are members of the public service.”

Warmington proposal

More than a year ago, controversial lawmaker Everald Warmington proposed sweeping changes to the Integrity Commission Act that would overhaul the anti-corruption body, excising the auditor general from the rank of commissioners and reverting the prosecutorial role to the director of public prosecutions.

Warmington, who is a member of the Joint Select Committee reviewing the Integrity Commission Act 2017, suggested that the prosecutorial powers vested in the director of corruption prosecutions be scrapped, saying that such powers are constitutionally vested in the director of public prosecutions.

The St Catherine South West member of parliament, in his March 2023 submission, sought to shut down the authority of the Integrity Commission to request information on statutory declarations predating the promulgation of the law in 2017.

He recommended that the “commission should not have any jurisdiction to carry out any proceedings under the act before it was passed”.