Three of the four persons nominated to be members of the Integrity Commi-ssion were yesterday sworn in during a simple ceremony by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan at the Ministry of the Presidency.
Former Land Court judge, Kumar Doraisami, who has been named Chairman, along with attorney Rosemary Benjamin-Noble and Pandit Rabindranath Persaud later received their instruments of appointment from Minister of State Joseph Harmon.
The fourth person, attorney Thandi McAllister was unavoidably absent from the ceremony and will take the oath of office at a later date.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo earlier this month indicated to President David Granger by way of letter that he had no objection to the quartet being appointed.
Under the former PPP/C government, the Integrity Commission had not functioned properly since early 2006, when its then Chairman resigned. It has taken more than two and a half years of the APNU+AFC government in office to finalise the appointments.
In November last year, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Alliance for Change (AFC) had called on the government, of which it is part, to “establish the Integrity Commission as a matter of urgent national priority.” The call was issued in a statement following the meeting of the NEC.
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, the highest ranked AFC member in the coalition government, has had responsibility for governance issues such as the Integrity Commission and the Code of Conduct for government officials. Both of these were to be put in place within months of the APNU+AFC government coming into office in May, 2015.
In delivering brief remarks, Harmon said that given the appointment of the trio the work of the commission can begin. He said that the Integrity Commission Act provides for the establishment of an Integrity Commission and to make provisions for securing the integrity of persons in public life. He noted that Granger has satisfied the requirements of the enabling provisions and in so doing appointed the commissioners.
He reminded the trio that “your assignment will be especially challenging as you seek to accomplish the aims and requirements of the act and the expectations of our citizens to demand the integrity of persons in public office”.
Doraisami later told reporters that he is unsure where his office will be located but once that is done and he gets familiar with the staff, he and the fellow commissioners will be able to focus on how to proceed with their mandate. He averaged that it will take a few months to get the work of the commission started.
The New Amsterdam, Berbice resident said that he sat on the bench from 2000 to 2005 after which he became a Commissi-oner of Title until 2009. After that, he said he returned to private practice.
He informed that it was Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, a friend of his who contacted him about being on the commission. He later accepted the offer.
Doraisami opined that the Act needs to be amended for the Commission to be able to do its work in an effective manner. “With the combination of people we have in the commission, we will be able to put the (current) Act into force”, he stressed.
Benjamin-Noble said she has been an Attorney-at-law for the last 28 years and has served in various capacities both in her professional life and on other commissions and bodies.
“Therefore I find that it will be interesting and a good challenge to be on the Integrity Commission because I will bring to bear all that I have, all my experience throughout the years and my knowledge”, she said, adding that she looks forward to full disclosure by those persons called on to do so and to be able “without too many fights to uphold the mandate of the Integrity Commi-ssion”.
Persaud indicated that his appointment to the commission was no surprise as he had served on one under the previous government. He described his appointment as an honourable position which aims to improve every stratum of public life.
The Integrity Commission Act makes provisions for the establishment of a commission to be known as the Integrity Commission, which shall consist of a chairman and not less than two nor more than four other members.
The Chairman, it states, shall be a person who is or who was qualified to be appointed as a Puisne Judge of the High Court or any other fit and proper person. “The other members shall be appointed from among persons appearing to the President to be qualified as having had experience of, and shown capacity in, law, administration of justice, public administration, social service, finance or accountancy or any other discipline. The chairman and other members shall be appointed by the President after consultation with the Minority Leader,” the Act further states.
The aim of the Act is to secure the integrity of persons in public life by applying certain measures to create, maintain and strengthen standards of conduct for the correct, honourable and proper fulfillment of public functions.