Click here to print page

House committee to review Integrity Commission Act

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 14, 2020

MINISTER of Justice Delroy Chuck is to chair the special oversight committee appointed by Parliament to review the 2017 Integrity Commission Act.

Leader of the House of Representative Karl Samuda announced that the MPs who will sit on the committee at the first sitting of Parliament for the new fiscal year, 2020/21, at Gordon House, next Tuesday.

However, the House leader later admitted to an error in the motion he had presented, which did not distance the oversight committee from other similar committees which would have dealt with matters pertaining to other commissions of Parliament as well.

The point was raised by the Opposition's spokesman on finance, Mark Golding, that unlike other committees which would have reviewed matters from various government agencies, this committee would be assigned only to the Integrity Commission.

“It is a unique committee of Parliament, because it is dedicated to a single commission of Parliament, not commissions of Parliament (in general),” Golding noted.

Samuda agreed with the Opposition MP and promised that another committee would be appointed at the next meeting of the House to review reports from all commissions of Parliament, including the Integrity Commission.

Other MPs making up the special oversight committee for the Integrity Commission were named as: Minister of State in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Everald Warmington; Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte; Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert (Trelawny Southern); Leslie Campbell, St Catherine North Eastern, from the Government. Fitz Jackson (St Catherine Southern); Mark Golding, (St Andrew Southern); and Mikael Phillips (Manchester, North Western), representing the Opposition. The members from the Senate are expected to be announced at its next meeting.

Appointment of the special oversight committee followed an undertaken given by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in response to a request from Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips.

Phillips had tabled a resoluton in the House in May, for the establishment of a committee to undertake these duties and report to Parliament, before the end of the current session. Phillips also moved a resolution for the immediate review of the Integrity Commission Act and, in particular, the confidentiality provisions.

He said the provisions have so far proven to be inconsistent with the aim of transparency and, as such, a review of the Act should be undertaken by a joint select committee of both Houses of Parliament in an effort to avoid “erosion of confidence in the commission”.

Holness, who had initially criticised the suggestion, changed his mind last month when the House resumed and Phillips raised the issue again, suggesting that an oversight committee for the commission could be established by the start of the 2020/21 session.

He said that he had directed the leader of the House to begin consultations with a view to selecting the members.

The prime minister explained that he had previously taken the view that Parliament should give the commission the opportunity to fully establish itself, without any interference “in any shape or form”, from the Government or the Parliament.

“I wish to agree with the leader of the Opposition that it is now time to put in place the oversight committee of Parliament for the Integrity Commission,” he said last month.

It was reported Tuesday that former Contractor General Greg Christie is to become the new executive director of the Integrity commission, effectively May 18.

Retired president of the Court of Appeal Justice Seymour Panton was appointed the new chairman in October, following the departure of Justice (Retd) Karl Harrison, who resigned, effective August 31.

The other members of the Commission are Retired Justice Lloyd Hibbert; Eric Crawford; and Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis.

The Integrity Commission was appointed on February 26, 2018, under the new Integrity Commission Act which was passed by the House of Representatives in 2017.

Members are appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the prime minister, after consultation with the leader of the Opposition, and they serve for seven years.