Christie says Integrity Commission 'just starting up'

Christie says Integrity Commission 'just starting up'

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, July 23, 2020

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EXECUTIVE director of the Integrity Commission Greg Christie on Tuesday told the parliamentary committee that has been set up to give oversight to the work of the commission that the entity, which has been in existence for two-and-a-half years, is “just starting up”, suggesting that it will be pushing much harder in the fight against corruption.

Christie and his team appeared before the committee to discuss its first and second annual reports, outlining the numerous challenges that the commission has grappled with and the measures now being implemented to carry out its work more efficiently.

The committee, among other matters, heard that there are 37 legacy investigations that are ongoing by virtue of Section 63 of the Integrity Commission Act, which allows the commission to carry forward matters that were in train prior to the repeal of the laws governing the three entities which now form the commission.

This would include investigations from the Office of the Contractor General (OCG), one of the three anti-corruption agencies which make up the commission.

Manchester Central Member of Parliament Peter Bunting, who raised the issue of OCG-initiated investigations, said he was disturbed by the number of legacy probes which have not seen reports coming to Parliament in more than two-an-a-half years.

“It speaks volumes to the inadequacy of investigative resources at the commission,” Bunting said.

The commission currently has four investigators dealing with more than 1,000 matters, a large number of which are legacy matters prior to the merger of the OCG, the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, and the Integrity Commission.

“This organisation is just getting off to a start although it is two years and five months old. We understand the framework that we are expected to work with and we are leveraging that,” Christie told the committee.

He explained that a number of transition issues had plagued the commission, such as interim leadership and low staff morale. “That has a lot to do with the fluidity of leadership in the organisation and also the uncertainties that resulted from the process of consolidating three institutions into one and the obvious concerns that members of staff would have, with respect to their future careers. Think about being on a six-month contract not knowing what will happen at the end of those six months, and when I went into the office that's what I found: Persons were leaving the organisation because they didn't know what was going to happen,” he explained. This exodus included investigators.

Christie said, however, that in his two months in office he has sought to boost staff morale despite the numbers. “I'm not one of those persons who believe that you have to have [large] numbers; I try to get productivity out of what we have, recognising that the country has challenges with money, yes, but if we had more investigators we could expedite,” he said.

The executive director gave notice that the commission will be asking Parliament to approve another 10 positions to bump up its staff complement to 145.

Christie informed parliamentarians that as part of efforts to drive the investigation process, the commission has met with the leadership of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, and several other constituted law enforcement authorities with which the commission is mandated to collaborate, and has set out a draft memorandum of understanding (MoU) with each, as provided for under law. “We are now in advanced discussions to settle those MoUs with a view to collaborating and not not overlapping resources,” he said.

The commission, he added, is now undertaking a structural review. He pointed out that the organisational structure of the commission is not fit for purpose, as, of the 16 functions of the commission that are outlined in law, only four or five are addressed by the structure of the organisation, through its three operational divisions. The commission, he said, is therefore seeking to add a corruption prevention division as one of the main tenets of its mandate.

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