Integrity Commission seeks to unmask parliamentarians hiding behind spouses

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 05, 2019

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The Integrity Commission is seeking changes to the law to strengthen its power to patrol the statutory declarations of parliamentarians.

In its annual report tabled in Parliament last Tuesday, the commission recommended changes to The Parliament (Integrity of Members) Act to close the loophole used by some parliamentarians to hide their assets in the names of their spouses.

Under the legislation, every parliamentarian is required to provide the commission with a statutory declaration of their assets, liabilities and income as at the date of their election or appointment, and at December 31 of each year, or part of the year, that they remain in Parliament.

They are also to file a declaration at the end of 12 months from the date which they leave Parliament.

But the commission noted that the Act is not very specific with respect to the submission of information for spouses.

“As a result, some persons appear to have an unfair advantage by not reporting any information pertaining to their spouses. It is recommended that this be addressed promptly,” said the commission, which also urged an urgent review of its access to tax information and the returns filed by parliamentarians.

“This would greatly assist the commission in ascertaining whether income declared, returns filed, or transfer tax paid, or payable, to the tax administration department, coincides with the information reported to the Integrity Commission.”

In its 2017 report the commission also noted that for the year, 191 sitting and former parliamentarians were scheduled to submit declarations for the previous year.

Of that number 184 were submitted by December 31, with one parliamentarian and a former parliamentarian, who were ill, among the seven to submit ther declarations on time.

“However, 61 of these declarations remained incomplete, as the additional information requested in order to properly analyse/complete the examination were either not presented, or, were submitted very late and, as a result, could not be included in this report,” said the commission.

“There were others that, although responses were received to the queries raised, the commissioners were still not satisfied, and hence those persons were asked to present additional information/explanation in order to complete the analysis. There were also instances where some declarations required further investigation.

“At the date of this report however, most of those outstanding have since been cleared.

The seven parliamentarians who failed to submit declarations by December 31, 2017

Dr Kenneth Baugh*

Arnaldo Brown**

Hugh Buchanan**

Richard Parchment**

Jolyan Silvera**

Derrick Smith*

Alexander Williams

* Non-presentation due to illness

** Former Members of Parliament defeated in the 2016 general election

Declarations examined but not cleared

Andrew Holness

Arnaldo Brown

Luther Buchanan

Leslie Campbell

Ian Hayles

Zavia Mayne

Ruel Reid

Keith Walford

Reported to the director of public prosecution for action

Alando Terrelonge,

Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn

Kerensia Morrison

Richard Parchment

Arnaldo Brown


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