Former Chief Justice Sir David Simmons has dismissed this island’s Prevention of Corruption Act as nothing more than “a joke”, while accusing successive Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administrations of “window dressing” on the issue of corruption.
Addressing a public forum on the topic of Corruption: Cost, Consequences and Remedies, Sir David, who is also a former attorney general, warned that the legislation, which was passed in Parliament back in 2012, was yet to be proclaimed into law.
He also cautioned that it was so full of holes that “you could drive a cart and ten donkeys through it”, while contending that successive DLP regimes, dating back to the one led by the country’s founding father Errol Barrow, were not interested in having integrity legislation on the statute books.
“In 1975 before the elections of 1976 integrity legislation was brought to Parliament by Mr Barrow, and never saw the light of day.
“In 2012 just before the 2013 election the same thing with this [Barbados Prevention of Corruption Act that was] brought to Parliament, [but] has not yet been put on the statute books,” he said, adding that it “seems to me to be a lot of window dressing”.
The Opposition Barbados Labour Party stalwart, who retired from active politics here after 26 years to take up the post of Chief Justice which he held for eight years, currently serves as head of the Integrity Commission in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI).
But while comparing the Barbados situation with that in the TCI, he warned that “the Barbados Act doesn’t begin to come close to what is needed.
“It has several serious deficiencies,” Sir David said, while suggesting that the major weakness with the domestic legislation was that it does not provide for investigative officers.
During last night’s forum which was hosted by the so-called Integrity Group, the respected Barbadian jurist pointed out that it has been a requirement in the British overseas territory since 2012 that 90 per cent of public officers and politicians declare their assets and gifts to self and organizations.
He also reported that the TCI had managed to recover US$24 million in dubious transactions, some of which involved the Butch Stewart-led Sandals hotel chain.
“You cannot function effectively unless you have investigators who will go and chase up things, who are skilled investigators. We have four in Turks, three of who are British, out of SOCA [the Serious Organised Crime Agency], ” Sir David explained.
“Ours [investigators] have powers of arrest. When we arrest you, we hand you over to the police to take the matter on from there,” he added, while suggesting that the same was needed in Barbados.
He also pointed out that the local Act had failed to make provision for funding for a commission when it finally becomes law.