The Leader of the Opposition, Hon John Briceno, hosted a press briefing yesterday to speak specifically on the Integrity Commission. As we have reported, the Integrity Commission had asked for records of elected officials for the past five years, however, they then changed that to only the past year. The Prime Minster had told the media that the request by the commission for five years of records was in fact illegal since they could not have jurisdiction over a time when they were not in office. According to Briceno, at yesterday’s briefing, the decision is not a real attempt by the Commission to keep the Government Minister’s honest.
Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition: If you look at the act, section 58, and I wrote down the wording here. Section 58 of the act states that, and I quote, “Unless otherwise specified under the provisions of the act, a prosecution of any offence, or penalties under the act shall be commenced within 5 years from the date when the cause of the action proceed.” Basically what it is saying that the commission, the integrity commission can look up to 5 years and if they see anything that looks suspicious or catches their attention, then they can pass it on to the DPP for the DPP to decide whether they are going to prosecute or not. The commission does not have the authority to tell representatives not to file. The law is very clear, everybody must file every year. But in this case, okay they can’t go beyond 5 years for any prosecution so at the very least let us start to file from 2011. We in the PUP , we have started from 2011 or 12, and right up to 2016, some of us have not finished 2016, we’re working on that; but the point is that we are making available our filing to the integrity commission.
Briceno says the Commission’s decision was most likely influenced by a letter that a UDP minister had and a UDP lawyer wrote to the commission stating that it would be very difficult to get records 5 years back. He says that is a very weak argument.
Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition: I dare say that he knows, that’s why he does not want to answer and that he would be very embarrassed to say that his ministers are refusing to file, that is why he does not want to give the answer. And if he does know, well, he can pick up the phone and call and by Monday he could call you all and say yes they have filed. I believe that the Prime Minister has a moral responsibility to this nation. He was elected on a platform against corruption, that he was not going to tolerate corruption. You remember the famous words of the double-edged machete? In 2004, that he was not going to tolerate the whiff of corruption. So even if, and I don’t agree, even if the integrity commission does not have the legal authority to demand for ministers to file from 2011. The Prime Minister has a moral responsibility to this nation based on the platform that he was elected in 2008 to demand that every minister file their reports.
The Integrity Commission voted unanimously to revert to one year of records as opposed to the five. That commission is made up of PUP representatives as well. Briceno was asked to explain how the PUP member also ended up voting in favour of the one-year proposal .
Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition: Is that the chairlady of the commission went through great lengths not to accommodate one of her commissioners, Miss Marla, to be at that meeting, because the meeting was set and then that date was changed to a date when Miss Marla couldn’t go. Miss Marla asked for it to be changed to another date and they refused. She asked then that the meeting be held in the afternoon, not in the morning, and they refused because they deliberately didn’t want Miss Marla to be at that meeting. In the first meeting, it was Miss Marla that fought vigorously to convince two other commissioners to take their position for them to be reporting from 2011; because from the beginning the chair was pushing for it to be for 1 year. It was only then after that when it is the very same ministers; you know when Mister Finnegan is talking about not making this political? Well they are the ones who are making it political because they were in uproar when they got that letter, and I have been told that there was big railing up in the cabinet because ministers are not prepared to file in their reports. So they have started to interfere, and they make sure that they have another meeting, and worked it in such a way that unfortunately Miss Marla couldn’t have been there to be able to explain to them legally. Miss Grinage was of the opinion that we need to file in for years but when she was there by herself, she’s not an attorney she is an accountant. We wanted to make sure that one of our people is a lawyer and the other one is an accountant so when they are reviewing the records; between both of them they could properly review the records of everyone. She pointed out to me that they were continuing arguing and arguing to her saying legally we don’t have the authority so she said well okay if you’re insisting that we don’t have the legal authority then she agreed and said well if that is the case then ok well so be it.