Don't weaken the Integrity Commission
WARMINGTON... the provision of the Act which vests prosecutorial powers in the commission should be deleted, as those powers are constitutionally vested in the DPP

We have consistently advocated that some issues, particularly education, health, and crime, be tackled without the tinge of partisan politics on the basis that the country would be better able to manage problems in these areas if there is consensus on a broad scale, even as we encourage critical review and amendments to improve service to our citizens.

While we hold firm to that position, we must admit that our suspicion is aroused whenever we see legislators on both sides of the Parliament agreeing on proposed amendments to the Integrity Commission Act.

Such was the case last week at the sitting of the joint select committee reviewing the Act.

Those proposals were made by Mr Everald Warmington, the Member of Parliament for St Catherine South Western, who is suggesting a removal of the Integrity Commission's prosecutorial powers and reposing those in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

He also proposed removing the commission's jurisdiction to carry out any proceedings under the Integrity Commission Act before it was passed in 2017.

Opposition Senator Mr Peter Bunting agreed with some of the recommendations, arguing that, while he doesn't necessarily agree with everything, he shares Mr Warmington's concern about the quality of the reports and the tendency to sensationalise some of the findings.

Mr Bunting pointed to a report issued last year by the commission regarding firearm licences issued in 2012, during his tenure as minister of national security.

He complained that the commission had criticised him about two appeals he had reviewed and granted the licences but deliberately omitted from its report the fact that he was acting in accordance with the recommendations of the review board, set up in the law to advise the minister.

"All of that was omitted from their report to this Parliament, even though I had set it out in writing in response to their questions. That is either just unprofessional, dishonest, or writing your report in a way to sensationalise it," Mr Bunting argued.

Based on that revelation, Mr Bunting has good reason to feel wronged, and that, we suspect, would have given him reason to find favour with Mr Warmington's proposal to reinsert Section 20 of the Contractor General Act to allow people against whom there have been adverse findings the opportunity to respond and have the responses included in reports to Parliament.

That is not an unreasonable proposal, especially given the outright mess the commission made of how it handled its investigation report on a conflict of interest issue involving Prime Minister Andrew Holness last month.

As we stated at the time, 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 gave the impression that the commission had an ulterior motive.

While we don't hold that view, there is no doubt that the fiasco has shaken public confidence in the commission. Of course, the commission must deal with the issue of its executive director, Mr Greg Christie, taking it upon himself to retweet a media report on the investigation without reference to the ruling, thus further eroding public confidence in the commission.

But even if the commission, hopefully, takes corrective action in that regard, we cannot sanction what is obviously an attempt by some legislators to weaken the commission. That would be tantamount to allowing the corrupt free reign.

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