Speaking at a press briefing late last month, Premier Fahie said: “This is an opportune time to also mention that we are in the process of constituting and establishing the Integrity Commission under the Integrity in Public Life Act.”
According to the Act, the Commission is to be comprised of a chairperson who shall be a retired judge or an attorney-at-law of at least 15 years and must be the agreed appointee between the Governor and the Premier. The Commission must also comprise one member each nominated by the Governor, the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and the Christian Council.
The Premier noted that once all the respective nominations come in, the Commission will be appointed and said this was expected to happen within the next few weeks.
“We hope to have the Commission functional within about one month,” Premier Fahie shared.
Under the Integrity in Public Life Act, there is a code of conduct for all persons in public life to whom this law will apply.
“Persons in public life would be required to complete and file, on the prescribed form, a declaration with the Integrity Commission of his or her income, assets, liabilities, private interests, and gifts in cash or kind that are received by himself or herself, his or her spouse or his or her dependent children,” the Premier stated.
He added: “And they will have to continue doing this for every year that they remain in public life.”
According to the Premier, the Act creates offences for such things as abuse of office, misconduct and neglect of duty.
It also provides for the Integrity Commission to receive complaints, and initiate investigations, both with regards to complaints of misconduct as well as the declaration of interests filed by persons in public life.
Premier Fahie further noted that in conducting investigations, the Integrity Commission has the powers, rights and privileges of the High Court at a trial as these relate to summoning witnesses to be examined under oath, affirmation or otherwise; and compelling the production of documents.
The law that governs the Commission provides for hefty monetary fines and even imprisonment for persons who commit offences under the Act, the Premier said.
Among other provisions of the Act, a person in public life shall not:
(a) use his or her office for the improper advancement of his or her own or his or her family’s personal or financial interests or the interest of any person;
(b) accept any position or have any commercial or other interest that is in conflict with his or her office, function and duty or the execution of his or her duties, or that may be perceived as conflict of interest with his or her office, function and duty or the execution of his or her duties;
(c) use public property or services for activities not related to his or her official work;
(d) directly or indirectly use his or her office for private gain.
The Integrity in Public Life Act was passed in December 2021 and assented by the governor in February 2022.