A procession of lawmakers who appeared before the Commission of Inquiry (COI) this week expressed varying degrees of difficulty in interpreting the form they’re required to submit to the Register of Interests — a record kept of the financial interests of House of Assembly (HOA) members. This difficulty is was what legislators claim caused them to make their declarations to the Registrar outside of the legally required timeline.
But unlike those who complained that the submission form was unclear in several areas, Fraser, who was first elected in 1999, told the COI there was little if any ambiguity surrounding the provisions of the form.
“It says exactly what it says,” he stated.
Fraser further told the COI that he took his position as a legislator seriously. So, to avoid any conflict of interest, he quit his practice as an architect immediately upon taking office.
According to the Third District Representative, he also took up no additional financial pursuits that might conflict with his role as a legislator.
“You may not get the same answers from others that you might get from me. But I can tell you that I walked into this with my eyes wide open … This bill was created during my tenure and I know what it’s all about. I know to stay away from these things,” Fraser said.
Despite this, it was revealed that Fraser — for several years counting — was late declaring his interests. This means he, too, was in breach of the legislation. However, he accepted responsibility during his appearance before the COI Wednesday.
“You have to bear with me in the fact that I was there when this law was made [so] I have no excuse for being ignorant of the law,” Fraser told the COI yesterday.
Fraser did not submit his declarations despite repeated pleas from former Registrar, Victoreen Romney-Varlack who advised him on several occasions what his breaches were.
Once, in 2016, the Registrar had cause to write the legislator about his past due declarations of interest for 2014 and 2015 which she said he needed to have rectified.
In May of that year, she was again recorded to have advised him twice about his breaches in the previous years.
Another missive was sent in August and December of that year. The Registrar sent Fraser another letter in March of the following year; effectively stating she was confident that he did not mean to take a course of action that would see him being in breach Section 3 of the law that he helped to pass.
It was also pointed out by the COI that there was no obligation on the part of the Registrar to issue any letters reminding members of the House to submit their declarations.
Instead, she is only required to write a report once they have been in breach of the Act past three months after the due date for submission.