Integrity Commission wants corruption courts

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

Sunday, July 14, 2019

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The often-repeated call for special courts to be established to deal with corruption cases has received the backing of the Integrity Commission, which is mandated to promote and enhance standards of ethical conduct for parliamentarians, public officials and other persons.

In its first annual report to Parliament, chairman of the commission, former Court of Appeal Judge Justice Karl Harrison argued that special courts dedicated to corruption matters would be a key measure in the fight against this scourge.

“If we are serious about fighting corruption, it is the view of the commission that special 'corruption courts' should be established to adjudicate upon all corruption-related offences. Parish courts are already overburdened and have serious backlogs of cases,” argued Harrison.

The call for corruption courts is one of several recommendations from the commission in its 2018/2019 report to Parliament.

Harrison and his fellow commissioners, retired Justice Seymour Panton, Pamela Monroe Ellis, Eric Crawford, and Dr Derrick McKoy had previously made it clear that they want changes to the legislation which governs its operation, and they highlighted some of the areas they are considering.

These include Section 10 of the Integrity commission Act which provides that, “An appointed Commissioner shall, subject to the provisions of the Act, hold office for a period not exceeding seven years, and may be eligible for reappointment.

“However, if, for any reason, there is no reappointment of the persons who served as appointed commissioners during the previous term, the commission will be constituted by entirely new appointed commissioners”.

According to Harrison, the clear disadvantage inherent in the present arrangement is a lack of continuity in the work of a commission comprised of new members who would not have had the advantage of direct knowledge or experience in its operation.

“If a mechanism to stagger the term of appointment of the appointed commissioners was to be adopted this would ensure a smooth transition at all times and the maintenance and preservation of the institutional memory of the commission,” argued Harrison.

The commissioners are also considering section 15 of the Act which provides for the termination of appointment of a commissioner and gives the governor general the power to terminate the appointment of an “appointed commissioner”.

“It is the view of the commission that section 15(1) should provide, without reference to the governor general, that an appointed commissioner may be removed from office only for inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause), or for misbehaviour,” said Harrison.

“With respect to Section 53(3), which deals with the confidentiality of investigations and reports, it is widely believed that the present provision is inconsistent with the objective of transparency in the functioning of the commission.

“It is our view, that the commissioners should be given the option of reporting, in general terms, the stage of an investigation without commenting specifically on the individuals being investigated or what they are being investigated for.

“We are further of the view that such disclosure should be restricted to the government entity that is involved and the cause of the commission's interest, if the commissioners deem such disclosure appropriate and taking into account the need for the protection of the reputations of individuals and institutions whose culpability have not been established to the satisfaction of the commission,” added Harrison.


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