‘Be fair’ Golding requests of Integrity Commission
Leader of the Opposition, Mark Golding

Leader of the Opposition, Mark Golding, is in agreement with Senator Peter Bunting that the Integrity Commission should be fair and balanced in its reports to Parliament by including the response of persons against whom its investigations turn up adverse findings.

Last week, at the sitting of the joint select committee reviewing the Integrity Commission Act, Bunting had raised concern about the quality of the reports and the tendency to sensationalise some of the findings. Member of Parliament for St Catherine South Western, Everald Warmington also shared this concern.

Bunting had 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," Bunting had argued.

Bunting was therefore in favour of 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.

Golding, on Sunday during a post-National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at the Calabar High School in St Andrew, agreed that the Integrity Commission “[does] not always put all the relevant facts in the report and that can cause unfairness and injustice to persons who are being reviewed…when critical elements which help to inform those decisions are not included in the report and seem to be deliberately omitted.

“Those are the things that the Commission needs to shape up and fix,” he said, adding that he believes the Commission should be protected and strengthened.

Golding noted, however, that while there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the structure of the Commission, the body needs to examine itself and adopt certain protocols to address areas of weakness and thereby enhance its effectiveness.

Of significance, the Commission had come under fire about how it had handled its investigation report on a conflict of interest issue involving Prime Minister Andrew Holness last month. The Committee had tabled the report on this matter in Parliament without the subsequent ruling by the director of corruption prosecution that "no criminal charges can be laid" against Holness.

READ: Holness cited for possible conflict of interest, breaches of Corruption Act

It was believed by some persons that this was done deliberately.

READ: WATCH: Holness hits out at ‘badmind’ detractors after Integrity Commission exoneration

Golding said this created “a huge storm”, which could've been avoided had the information been provided as it should have been - contemporaneously or one immediately following the other.

“They need to reconsider how they approach those matters and deal with them properly,” he stressed.

“The Integrity Commission is not perfect and certain things have happened, which I think they need to reflect on and they should adopt, in my view, a position that says we are open to criticism, we are open to modifying our ways in which we do things as long as they are compliant with the law so that we deliver a better result for Jamaica,” he said.

Golding noted, however, that he disagrees with the proposal Warminton made during the sitting of the joint select committee, reviewing the Act to “essentially gut the Integrity commission and neuter it so that it is no longer an effective body”.

He also refuted a report from the Jamaica Gleaner that suggested that there was some kind of consensus between Warmington and the PNP around reforming the integrity commission.

“I just want to settle that matter here. There is no such consensus,” he said.

Warmington had suggested a removal of the Commission's prosecutorial powers and reposing those in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

READ: Warmington calls for removal of prosecutorial powers from Integrity Commission

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

“The idea of taking away their prosecutorial powers, I do not support that. The idea that they can’t investigate anything before 2018 when they came into existence, I do not support that. There are transitional provisions in the law that establish them to preserve all pending matters, and those must be preserved and adjudicated on,” Golding said

By: Alecia Smith Observer Senior Staff Reporter smitha@jamaicaobserver.com

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