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Montague says MOCA Bill will address oversight concerns

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 05, 2017

MINISTER of National Security Robert Montague says that some concerns raised by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) about the operation of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) will be addressed in the MOCA Bill 2017.

“I wish to mention that since the Bill was tabled in April, we have received some comments from INDECOM, which have been considered and adopted, where appropriate,” the minister informed the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

He noted that the amendments will be tabled in the House of Representatives, when the debate resumes.

The Bill was tabled during the 2017/18 budget debate in the House on March 21, during the presentation to the annual budget debate by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

It was the second piece of legislation tabled by the Government this year to boost Jamaica's anti-corruption framework following the Integrity Commission Bill two months earlier.

Holness told the House then that the legislation was designed to transform the agency into an elite law enforcement investigative agency, operating independently of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

This move, he said, forms part of the Administration's 'Plan Secure Jamaica' initiative, which is aimed at tackling challenges associated with crime, violence and poverty.

However, in June INDECOM's boss, Commissioner Terrence Williams, told a parliamentary committee that his commission wanted to have the ability to probe cases involving MOCA officers.

Williams said that the proposed arrangement for investigating possible abuses by MOCA's investigators would fall below the standard required by the Constitution, as well as the procedural obligations for probing abuses of the citizen.

The current Bill proposes an oversight committee with the twin objectives to: Hold the director general of MOCA and other officers of the agency accountable to the public in the performance of their functions under the Act; and to provide independent oversight in relation to the handling of a complaint made by any person under the Act.

Montague noted Tuesday that the principal objectives of the Act are, in summary: to establish the agency and place it on an autonomous footing; to assist in preventing, detecting, investigating, and prosecuting serious crime; and to improve public confidence in the effectiveness of law enforcement.

“By so doing, MOCA will assist in promoting and protecting public safety and, by extension, improving the overall national security of our nation,” he said.

He stated that the Act did not affect the operation of the Mutual Assistance (Criminal Matters) Act, which allows for the minister with responsibility for justice, or his designate, to request the assistance of a foreign state in respect of investigations and proceedings in relation to a criminal matter.

In addition to carrying out investigative and prosecutorial functions related to serious crime, he said that MOCA will also: Receive complaints in relation to alleged or suspected acts involving serious crime; gather, store, process, analyse, and disseminate information that is relevant to activities to combat serious crime; and to carry out counterterrorism functions as may be conferred on the agency by the minister in accordance with Section 11(2).

He said that the ability of the agency to conduct counterterrorism functions is critical, given the strong evidence that terrorist organisations are engaged in transnational organised crime, which they use as a source of funding.

“By enabling MOCA to act in this sphere, we are empowering our law enforcement agencies to take effective steps to detect and prevent an act of terrorism in Jamaica,” Montague said.

The debate is set to continue later this month. Prime Minister Holness is also expected to contribute.