(CNS): With no sign of a start date for the Standards in Public Life Law, which remains the unfulfilled commitment to keep politicians and senior public servants honest, the commission established under the Constitution to keep an eye on the morals and integrity of government had sought a meeting with the now supended governor. The most recently published minutes from the Standards in Public Life Commission reveal that before the sudden recall of Anwar Choudhury to London, CSPL Chair Rosie Whittaker-Myles had asked for a meeting with him to express their concern over the continued failure to implement this law.
The commission had wanted to raise the issue with the governor that, four years after the passage of the first Standards in Public Life Law in 2014 and two years after it was amended to accommodate the demands of private sector board members, there is still no sign of its implementation date. However, with the UK official still under a mysterious investigation and his posting in jeopardy, it may be some time before the members of the commission have anyone with whom they can raise their concerns.
The legislation was drafted not only to give the commission some teeth but to require politicians, public officials and board members of statutory authorities and government companies (SAGCs) to properly disclose their interests and conflicts. The aim is to ensure that those who are making major decisions about public spending are transparent so that people can see for themselves whether decisions are being made in the public interest or if people are abusing their public office to feather their own nests.
The law was changed in 2014 to reduce the amount of information that public officials would need to disclose after private sector appointees to government boards threatened to resign en masse rather than meet the legal requirements to divulge their own and their family members’ financial and other relevant interests. As a result, the legislation was watered down.
In the commission’s most recent public report covering the period August 2017 to January 2018, the members stated that they met with Premier Alden McLaughlin in January about securing a commencement date for the law and the need to draft regulations, but six months later there is still no start date, despite the amendments. Gloria-McField-Nixon presented that report to the LA at its recent meeting but made no comment on the failure of government to enact the law.
It is no longer clear what the hold-up is on its implementation other than a reluctance by those who will be most impacted by the law to actually implement it.
When, or if, the law eventually comes into effect, all elected officials, top civil servants (such as the deputy governor and the attorney general), all chief officers, chief financial officers, heads of departments and their deputies, and senior officials at the SAGCs, as well as board members, will be required, within 90 days of taking on the relevant job, to report their income, assets and interests to the Commission for Standards in Public Life.