JUSTICE Minister Delroy Chuck is insisting that the leadership of the Integrity Commission be summoned to Parliament to explain its reasons for publishing a report in February referring Prime Minister Andrew Holness for corruption prosecution over 14-year-old Government contracts, but failing to note that the director of corruption prosecution had ruled a month prior that there was no case to be brought.
"To this day we have not had an appropriate apology to the prime minister for what took place or even from the Integrity Commission on how they could allow that report to be public; how he [executive director] could be tweeting immediately after the report was tabled in Parliament, knowing full well that in short order the ruling of the director of corruption prosecutions has a ruling to be tabled. These are things they need to answer. We cannot let this matter lie," he insisted on Wednesday following a wide-ranging submission of recommendations brought by MP for St Catherine South Western Everald Warmington to the joint select committee reviewing the Integrity Commission Act.
If adopted by Parliament the amendments would shake up the operations of the Integrity Commission.
Further, Chuck asserted that with more than $1 billion allocated in the upcoming budget to fund the commission, there are questions as to whether those resources are being effectively used, as corruption perceptions appear to be escalating instead of being reduced.
Opposition Senator Peter Bunting agreed with some of the recommendations, arguing that, "I don't necessarily agree with everything, but I too share his concern over the quality of the reports and the tendency to sensationalise some of the findings."
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.
"They criticised me about two appeals that I reviewed and granted the licences but deliberately omitted from their report the fact that I was acting in accordance with the recommendations of the Review Board, set up in the law to advise the minister. This was a review board comprised of a distinguished panel. In both cases I acted in accordance with their recommendation, or more conservatively. 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 argued.
He added that the degree of fairness and natural justice consideration which was provided for in the Contractor General Actf is worth reviewing, and that the commission itself needs to reflect on how it operates and its agenda.
Among Warmington's proposed amendments to the Integrity Commission Act are: removal of the commission's prosecutorial powers, and reposing those in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution; removing its jurisdiction to carry out any proceedings under the Integrity Commission Act before it was passed in 2017; and reinserting Section 20 of the Contractor General Act to allow persons against whom there have been adverse findings the opportunity to respond, and include their response in reports to Parliament.
Minister of Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte pointed out that the recommendations have highlighted a need to review how independent commissions of Parliament are dealt with.
"At the end of the day everyone and every authority is answerable to someone. The democratic arrangements are worth studying. I'm amazed how many times I hear statements made with much force and [which]would be accepted authoritatively, but are so wrong in law and wrong in facts," she stated. "Sometimes you can be mistaken and convincing, and wrong and convincing. So as we embark on this review, it may be worth our while thinking about how the commissions of Parliament work â€” and this one in particular."