Credibility of the Integrity Commission at stake
Chairman of the Integrity Commission Justice (retired) Seymour Panton

The kerfuffle over the Integrity Commission's handling of its investigation report on a conflict of interest issue involving Prime Minister Andrew Holness is most unfortunate.

Tabling the report in Parliament without the subsequent ruling by the director of corruption prosecution that "no criminal charges can be laid" against Mr Holness goes to questions about motive.

It is clear that last week's events have shaken public confidence in the commission, even as the commissioners sought to explain that there is no provision in the Integrity Commission Act mandating the tabling of a ruling by the director of corruption prosecution.

In fact, last Friday the commissioners pointed to Section 53(3) of the Act, which states that "until the tabling of a report in Parliament, all matters under investigation by the director of investigation or any other person involved in such investigation shall be kept confidential and no report or public statement shall be made by the commission or any other person in relation to the initiation or conduct of [the] investigation".

As such, the commissioners said, publication of the ruling could not be done before or simultaneously with the report — it had to await the tabling of the report.

However, we share the view expounded by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding in this edition that, had both the investigation report and the ruling by the director of corruption prosecution — which the commissioners had received from January 12 — been tabled together, the public consternation that ensued and the reputational damage that has been done to both the prime minister and the country could have been avoided. And, indeed, as Mr Golding argues: "It would have been the right thing to do."

As it now stands, a cloud of suspicion hangs over the commission which, as we said, is most unfortunate because this is an entity designed to ensure good governance.

That Mr Greg Christie, the executive director of the commission, took it upon himself to retweet a media report on the investigation without reference to the ruling has only made matters worse.

How the commission handles that matter will be instructive, because Mr Christie, during his tenure as contractor general from 2005 to 2012, had allowed the overwhelming support for his office to go to his head and feed into his seemingly insatiable appetite for media attention.

In 2020, on his appointment to his new post, we had welcomed him with niggling dread, even as we acknowledged his skill, tenacity and the commitment he demonstrated while he was contractor general. Our hope was that he had returned a better man, having learnt from his previous mistakes, thereby enhancing his chances of attaining superlative success in the fight against corruption.

For now, though, the bigger picture is restoring public confidence in the Integrity Commission.

We have no reason to question the sincerity of the commissioners — Mr Justice Seymour Panton, chairman; Mrs Pamela Monroe Ellis; Mr Justice Lloyd Hibbert; Mr Eric Crawford; and Mr Wayne Powell.

Justice Panton, in today's edition of this newspaper, has firmly stated that the commission is not driven by malice or ill will. He has also made it clear that they have no agenda other than the discharge of the duties placed on them by the law, without fear or favour.

We encourage all well-thinking Jamaicans to accept that commitment.

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