The Integrity Commission has issued warning signals that it has begun the process of preparing files for public officials with outstanding statutory declarations to be referred for prosecution.
In a special report to Parliament yesterday on the status of statutory declarations the commission said, going forward, it will also take similar action against individuals who have statutory declarations that are to be filed as at December 31, 2021.
The commission said, although there has been a gradual increase in the compliance rate, from 58 per cent to 66.89 per cent as of March this year, it is concerned that 13,393 statutory declarations from public officials remain outstanding for 2020. This is out of a total of 40,499, which were due.
The report also showed that of the 107 statutory declarations required for 2020 from parliamentarians, two were outstanding as at September 2021.
This means a total of 27,161 statutory declarations for 2020 have been filed from public officials and parliamentarians as at September 30 this year.
“In this regard, the commission has commenced the process of preparing files for outstanding declarants to be referred for prosecution. Declarants are therefore encouraged to submit all outstanding statutory declarations to avoid being referred for prosecution,” the Greg Christie-headed commission stated.
The commission stressed that, as the 2021 statutory declaration intake period approaches, it was making a special appeal to declarants to submit their 2021 statutory declaration early using the decentralised mechanism which will be set up within their respective public bodies.
The commission has also sought to clarify its reasons for seeking to introduce a voluntary declaration form under section 7 of the Integrity Commission Act. It said the form is intended to support the electronic submission of declarations, which will be a flagship system for the information and complaints division, enabling it to more efficiently process statutory declaration information.
Parliamentarians had expressed strong concerns about the reason for the form at a recent meeting of the oversight committee for the commission. They said public officials were also uncomfortable with the requirement to validate information they had already provided in their declarations.
The commission explained that it had discovered that there are many declarants who have assets, including properties, that they have not declared.
“When informed of the commission's findings, some of these declarants have indicated loss of memory and/or lack of intention to conceal. Some of the assets, including properties, are overseas,” the report said.
The commission said that it had therefore issued letters requiring that declarants review their last submissions to ensure they have not omitted any information, “and to submit any additional information they would have omitted, or sign the letter to state that they have not omitted any information”.
It stressed that the letter is the “starting point of the commission's examination and enquiry process. The intent of the letter is to determine the accuracy of the information so that a proper assessment can be undertaken to certify the statutory declaration.”