Ethics board creates website in absence of law

| 11/05/2017 | 6 Comments

(CNS): The Standards in Public Life Commission has launched a new website, though there is still no sign of a commencement date regarding the legislation needed to hold politicians, public servants and public board members accountable and ensure they are not conflicted in their roles. CNS has learned from government sources that the commission is behind the hold-up as it was tasked with forming the regulations. In this latest release, the commission states that the “regulations will be finalised in the very near future” but gives no timeline.

The legislation was passed in 2014 but a backlash from the private sector about having to declare too much personal information if they were to serve as volunteers on boards panicked government. It feared that the challenge of finding suitable people to sit on boards regulating or managing government authorities and companies would be made worse. As a result, it amended the law in 2016 to reduce the amount of information they would be obligated to disclose.

However, speaking at a Chamber of Commerce candidates forum this week, Karin Thompson, the first chair of this commission who did the work to write the necessary legislation, pointed out that anyone not willing to disclose their interests they had no business serving on the boards. Thompson, an attorney who is running for office in George Town North, said she spent four years working on the law, which is mandated by the constitution. But she said the country was no closer to getting the law than it was when she began working on the legislation in 2009

More than a year after changes to the law were passed in 2016, after the 2014 version caused such a stir, there is no sign of the law coming into force. The laws are both available on the website for viewing, but with no commencement date there is still no legal enforcement of standards for public servants.

Commission Chairman Rosie Whittaker-Myles said, “The commission has been engaged in preparatory work leading up to the commencement of the law and remains committed to ensuring that public officials and persons in public life adhere to the law by disclosing any conflicts of interests or perceived conflicts of interests to ensure the maintenance of the ‘highest standards of integrity and competence in public life’.”

Prevention of corruption and conflicts of interest within the public service are the commission’s highest priorities, the release stated, but there remains a clear lack of transparency. While the Legislative Assembly still holds the register of interest for politicians, which the public can only view in person and by appointment, there is no indication that the interests and conflicts of any senior civil servants or board members are held anywhere.

Eight years after the 2009 Constitution was passed in a referendum, providing for the creation of a commission to manage the ethics of public office, the people still cannot see what interests, conflicts or other relevant issues senior public officers or board directors may have while making key operational and spending decisions on their behalf.

See the Standards in Public Life website here


Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (6)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Can’t the non-conflict and disclosure requirements be drafted into the bylaws of the government bodies? Or the employment contracts of the senior civil servants? I think the reality is that we’re in an election year. Too many greedy and well-connected snouts would get pulled out of the trough if this law was passed and that’s not good for votes.

    • Anonymous says:

      While there may be one or two “troughs”, there are lots and lots of other government boards and commissions whose members serve on them for no remuneration at all. Why? Because believe it or not, they want to “give back”. They get no benefit, or even the chance to benefit, personally; nor do they want them. These are frequently respected community or business leaders or retirees whose integrity is acknowledged.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure he’s a nice fellow, but why do we have a West Bay Seventh Day Adventist Pastor on this 3-person Standards in Public Life Commission? What possible commercial financial savvy, or moral high-ground does he bring to the table given his long history with the church and their unfortunate public history of accepting political kickback? Doesn’t the presence of his four-year appointment to this Commission erode its credibility, despite its intentions?

    Lest we forget, the recipients of McKeeva’s $13.5mln “nation building fund” fun-chest, 40% were churches, including: his own Wesleyan Holiness Church West Bay ($1,300,000), Church of God Bodden Town ($1,050,000), Church of God West Bay ($450,000), Seventh Day Adventist Church West Bay ($275,000), Light of the World Christian Fellowship ($180,000), All Nation United Pentecostal ($175,000), New Testament Church West Bay ($130,000), 90 & 9 Outreach Ministry ($125,000), Church of God Frank Sound ($125,000), Wesleyan Holiness Church George Town ($122,585), Covenant Moravian Church ($104,991) and Seventh Day Adventist Church ($100,000). Only some of the funds were begrudgingly returned after public out-cry.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Evidently the online cosmetics of their off-beat website had a much higher priority than “prevention of corruption and conflicts of interest within the public service”. The leisurely mission of designing and publishing this website seems to have successfully delayed the more important three-year old task of hammering out basic regulations and standards, easily adopted from elsewhere, until well after this election.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wish they would hurry up and get the thing started. We all know who is the most corrupt but have no one to act on it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Must have a website at all costs. Even if its got nothing to say.


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