OPM: Holness asks for more time to release integrity report

OPM: Holness asks for more time to release integrity report

BY KIMONE FRANCIS Observer staff reporter francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

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ALMOST two weeks after the March 31 deadline for parliamentarians to release their annual integrity report, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has asked the Integrity Commission of Parliament for more time to release his.

It was not clear yesterday how many parliamentarians have filed their reports or, like Holness, have also requested more time to have the documents ready.

Holness, during the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) campaign leading up to the February 25 General Election, said he would release his financial and health records for public scrutiny by the end of March. All annual integrity reports are to be submitted to Parliament by March 31. Section 4(3)(b) of the Parliament (Integrity of Members) Act only offers March 31 as a grace period, after the required date of December 31 of each year.

"Is not just me alone seeking leadership of the country… Man who have mouth must put up or shut up, too," Holness told cheering Labourites at a mass rally in St Andrew West Rural in December.

"So, when I release my financial records, I am going to release my health records, too, because we need to know who a get a little touch of dementia," he told party supporters.

The Jamaica Observer has sought to ascertain when the prime minister would release the report, as promised, but was told that the "budgetary process" had caused a delay.

"We want to assure you that it will be released, but we need some time because of the budgetary process," the Observer was told after contacting the Office of the Prime Minister.

"When we came in we jumped right into the budgetary process, and what we’ve had to do was to craft a budget or to amend the crafting of the budget. And based on our economic priorities, we weren’t really given much time to do other things. But we want to assure you that it will be released," the officer added.

Section 4 of the Parliament (Integrity of Members) Act does not state any direct sanction for the non-submission of integrity reports. However, section 4(2) does allow the commission to "…require the production of documents" and to do "…all such things as it requires necessary or expedient" to complete its function.

Head of the National Integrity Action (NIA) Professor Trevor Munroe told the Observer that while Holness’ "voluntary disclosure" is a "good thing and is commendable", he must adhere to his commitment.

"It is of absolute importance that the prime minister fulfils his commitment todisclose his statutory declarations within the time promised; however, if he has not been able to do so, then the public should be given the full explanation as to why the deadline was not met," he said.

Munroe suggested that there might be a good reason for the delay, but insisted that "we should know fully what the reasons are since a firm commitment was made, and we expect the prime minister to live up to that commitment in the interest of accountability".

He also pointed out that within the JLP’s manifesto a commitment was made to amend that law to require by statute that the statutory declarations by the prime minister, the leader of the Opposition and the minister of finance be disclosed.

"I would expect that the necessary changes in the legislation will come in a reasonable time," he said.

The JLP manifesto said: "We will introduce mandatory disclosure of integrity reports by the prime minister, leader of the Opposition, and minister of finance."

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