Holness told legislators on Tuesday that Jamaica’s low ranking in the recently released Transparency International report on corruption was due to the island’s inability to have passed the Integrity Commission Act in the past.
Jamaica was ranked 83rd by Transparency International in its latest ranking of corruption involving 176 countries.
“The Government is not pleased with our present rating in the Transparency International report,” Holness said, adding that his administration would be doing everything within its power to reverse the situation.
Under the legislation allowing for the establishment of a single anti-corruption body to investigate and prosecute corruption in Jamaica, provision is also made for the appointment of three commissioners to head the administration, investigation and corruption.
In his contribution, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said while recognising that the statute was not perfect, the Government could not delay its passage any longer.
“This does not concentrate the power in the anti-corruption ethos system in one person and I think that is another advance. It concentrates the power in an institution. of …Commissioners.
“The question is who is responsible then. I can’t answer that question today and I don’t know if presentations from the opposition will seek to answer it. But what I do say let us make the step review it after two years if there needs to be any improvement,” Holness said.
Holness said that the director of corruption prosecution will not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority, with the exception of the director of public prosecutions.
“… It doesn’t have to be all talk, media and just trying to embarrass people into action now. There is real power to take real action when there is real evidence of corruption,” he emphasised.
Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte recommended that Parliament establish a select committee to provide oversight for the new Integrity Commission, as well as the other commissions of Parliament, while Justice Minister Delroy Chuck advised the House that he would be having dialogue with his counterpart, Mark Golding, to determine who will become the chief spokesperson for the new anti-corruption agency.
“Once it is passed, there is no doubt that it will send a signal that Jamaica is committed to the fight against corruption,” Chuck stated.
“It is not a perfect Bill, there are one or two areas that can be improved and will be improved,” Chuck said, adding that once it has been passed in the Senate, he would consult with Golding, the Opposition spokesman on justice, to set up a joint select committee to implement the provisions.
Opposition spokesman on finance Dr Peter Phillips agreed that the Bill had spent a long time in gestation, noting that consideration began about 2009 and a joint select committee reviewed the recommendations in 2014.
“I think that the drafting of the legislation took place, in the main, in the period prior to 2016,” he stated.
Phillips also paid tribute to Senator Mark Golding, who chaired the joint select committee, and predicted that the Bill would be a contribution to Jamaica’s anti-corruption legislation architecture, which has enabled it to secure commitments from both sides of the House.
He said that it would have been a blot on the Parliament to have completed the current legislative year (2016/17) without passing the Bill.
The new Integrity Commission Act will consolidate the laws relating to the prevention of corruption and the award and monitoring of government contracts by establishing a single commission to investigate and prosecute acts of corruption.
- Countries: Jamaica
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