Head of the Commission of Inquiry (COI), Sir Gary Hickinbottom has expressed an inclination to publicly live-stream a hearing regarding the issue of the Register of Interests for members of the House of Assembly (HOA).
The Register of Interests is essentially a record kept of the financial interests of legislators. Its purpose is to give them the mechanism to publicly declare any private interests which may conflict or may be perceived to conflict with their public duties.
Sir Gary, the lone Commissioner of the COI
, disclosed is intent after hearing arguments from Fiona Forbes-Vanterpool on behalf of the Attorney General.
According to Sir Gary, the members of the HOA had, so far, not objected to the documents being before the COI
in an unredacted format.
Previously, legislators voted unanimously for an amendment to the Register of Interests Act that allows the COI
access to the previously private Register.
According to Sir Gary, the members did this in contemplation that the Declaration of Interests they have made may become public once the information is disclosed to the COI
He further noted that given that HOA members are strongly favour of transparency in government, he assumed they personally had no objection to these matters going into the public domain.
Forbes-Vanterpool, meanwhile, told the Commissioner: “You have to consider the clear intention of the legislature that the contents of the Register remain private, and so you have to consider, Commissioner, what is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances as regards why [there should be] public disclosure in that context.”
She also said it was up to the Registrar to apply her discretion in determining whether and why the public dissemination is necessary.
“That is our position, but that is still a matter for the Registrar. It is her discretion that has to be exercised in respect of what conditions ought to be imposed,” Forbes-Vanterpool stated.
The balancing of the public interest is very easy, isn’t it, because the people, whose confidentiality it is, have no objection,” Sir Gary reasoned.