Integrity Commission office to be up and running in next few weeks

-Chairman

Minister of State Joseph Harmon (at left) with Chairman of the Integrity Commission Kumar Doraisami, Commissioners Rosemary Benjamin-Noble and Pandit Rabindranauth Persaud, and Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan. (Ministry of the Presidency photo)

The Integrity Commission’s office will be up and running in the next few weeks, according to Chairman Kumar Doraisami, who has said that efforts are being made to compile a list of public officials who are required under law to declare their assets.

The security arrangements of the office, which will be located at 74 Church Street, Subryanville, as well as a full complement of staff, is also high on the agenda.

In addition to Doraisami, who is a former Land Court judge, attorneys Rosemary Benjamin-Noble and Thandi McAllister and Pandit Rabindranath Persaud sit on the commission.

Speaking to Sunday Stabroek, Doraisami said that he and the other commissioners met for the first time last Wednesday, having communicated previously via telephone. He said that they were able to identify the Subryanville location, which will house the office.

“We have a few things going right now…We are awaiting some other approvals from the Office of the Prime Minister,” he said. Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, the highest ranked AFC member in the coalition government, has had responsibility for governance issues, including the Integrity Commission and the Code of Conduct for government officials, both of which were to be put in place within months of the APNU+AFC government coming into office in May, 2015.

Doraisami told this newspaper that the Commission is looking to move into the location very soon. “We have to get those files and so over. So, we have things in train”, he stressed, before adding that he is to visit the location on Monday to meet the secretary, who is the only staff member presently. He said that once the Commission moves into the building, it will be able to “function freely.”

He said that if the move could occur next week, “we will have to get at least three to four people to start with and then we have to try to see if we could get a full complement so that we can get all these declarations and forms and so sent out and so on and start to receive all these declarations but it’s going to take like another two weeks.” Noting that his position on the Commission is part time, he said that he will find as much time as he can to be at the office.  “As soon as we move into that place, we will be able to get things organised. We are trying to get the list of all the people concerned, public officials. Once we get that list, it will take some time, but once we get that list to start to send the form outs—we’re trying to get things organised before the 30th June when they’re supposed to send their declaration and so into the commission,” he added.

Doraisami said that public officials have to fill out a declaration form, in which they have to declare their assets and liabilities to the Commission. “We will have to get those for the people concerned, the public officials…we have to be able to look at each one of them and look at whatever is short and make sure we inform the people, those who do not send in their forms in time, we have to notify them and so on,” he explained.

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 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.

Shortly after being sworn in on February 22nd, Doraisami had 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 had stressed. Under the former PPP/C government, the Integrity Commission had not functioned properly since early 2006, when the then Chairman resigned. It has taken the APNU+AFC government more than two and a half years since entering office to finalise the appointments. In November last year, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the 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.

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