Christie, 'Warmy' clash
Warmington says Integrity Commission tainted; questions political affiliation of one director
Executive director of the Integrity Commisison Greg Christie answers questions at a parliamnatary oversight committee on Wednesday. (Photo: Joseph Wellington

Executive director of the Integrity Commission (IC) Greg Christie and Cabinet Minister Everald Warmington squared off at Wednesday's meeting of the parliamentary oversight committee for the commission after the controversial Member of Parliament (MP) fired a line of questions at the public official, accusing the anti-corruption body of being "tainted".

"The Integrity Commission is expected to be impartial, unbiased, and above politics. Is that the case currently?" Warmington asked.

Christie responded by asking him to repeat the question, then said, "Absolutely".

Warmington then proceeded to inquire: "Is there anyone on your team who is viewed as a PEP — a politically exposed person — whereby if they are opening an account or doing anything like this they have to declare this to the bank?"

"Sir, let me say something to you. I wouldn't want to say this, but I have to. I've never voted," Christie told the MP, to which Warmington retorted: "I didn't ask you that, I'm not interested."

Warmington went on to allege that the IC's director of corruption prevention, stakeholder engagement, and anti-corruption strategy Ryan Evans had previously been employed to former leader of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) Dr Peter Phillips in a political capacity as an advisor.

"How do you think Jamaicans would look at it when someone, who was politically connected, happens to be a director of corruption investigation. This department is tainted, certainly!" Warmington insisted, to objections from MP for St Andrew South Eastern Julian Robinson.

"We are not here to persecute anybody; we are here to make the office far more effective," Kingston Eastern and Port Royal MP Phillip Paulwell interjected.

The oversight committee met to discuss the way forward for the backlog of 17 reports of investigations from the commission which are before Parliament.

Warmington last week brought a raft of proposals to amend the Integrity Commission Act, including yanking prosecutorial powers from the commission and giving individuals against whom there are adverse findings the opportunity to respond and have their responses included in the reports of investigations to Parliament. He argued that, with the commission being a committee of Parliament, maintaining prosecutorial powers "would have the effect of Parliament setting up its own investigative arm, which proceeds to criminally prosecute a special category of persons". He insisted that those powers should instead be reposed in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), consistent with Jamaica's constitutional arrangement, whereby crimes are investigated by the police and prosecuted by that office.

Warmington brought the submission to the committee in the wake of a report which the commission tabled in Parliament in February referring Prime Minister Andrew Holness to its Director of Corruption Prosecution Keisha Prince-Kameka in relation to the award of Government contracts to Westcon Construction during the period 2007- 2009.

The commission, in its 107-page report which was tabled in the Parliament, noted that the investigation by its director of investigation concerned the allegations that contracts had been awarded to Westcon Construction and whether there was a "connection and/or relationship between the proprietors of the named entity and Andrew Holness, prime minister of Jamaica and then minister of education youth and information".

But the commission was heavily criticised when news emerged that at the time it tabled the report it was already in possession of a ruling from Prince-Kameka stating that there was insufficient evidence to charge Holness.

Holness — the Member of Parliament for St Andrew West Central — was minister of education from 2007-2009 in the then Bruce Golding-led Jamaica Labour Party Government.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter

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