A Government backbencher believes the time has come for the Caribbean to have its own version of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the principal law enforcement agency and domestic intelligence and security service in the United States.
“The time has come in this part of the region for us to consider an overarching body, something the equivalent [of] an FBI,” Member of Parliament for St Michael West Central Ian Gooding-Edghill said in Parliament yesterday during debate on the Integrity in Public Life Bill, without reference to The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), which was set up by regional governments back in July 2006 to manage CARICOM’s action agenda on crime and security.
The Trinidad-based CARICOM IMPACS has direct responsibility for research, monitoring and evaluation, analysis and preparation of background documents and reports, as well as project development and implementation of the regional crime and security agenda.
However, Gooding-Edghill, who recently came to Government following the May 24 general election in which the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was swept to power, was adamant that no one was above the law, while suggesting that “we [the Caribbean] ought to start thinking seriously how we police everybody, because often times the political class can be a victim of rumour and innuendo, but there may be others out there who benefit, and we don’t know.
“If you have a body adequately staffed with the powers to address these concerns, I believe it will help this part of the region,” he added.
In making his contribution to the integrity debate, the BLP spokesman also called for local companies to be subjected to the proposed Integrity In Public Life legislation and for auditors to be placed in all statutory corporations.
In fact, he argued that companies, whether private or public, preside over some degree of taxpayers’ interest, therefore the behaviour of their officials must be monitored.
Gooding-Edghill also pointed out that statutory corporations receive millions in Government funding annually, while stating that there should be better accounting for those sums.
However, while noting that the Integrity in Public Life Bill affects mainly Government officials, he said “in order to maintain the public’s trust it may be necessary for us to go a step further and consider amending the Companies Act to ensure that those persons who had a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the shareholders – in this case the Government of Barbados or any interest that we have – that they who breach that trust should also be removed from directorships in this company”.
As regards statutory corporations, Gooding-Edghill noted that between $10 million and $40 million in public funds was transferred to them annually, adding that for this reason alone each of those entities should have internal auditors.
“The time has come when all statutory corporations, or anybody funded by the taxpayers of Barbados should have an internal auditor,” he stressed, adding that these internal auditors would make the work of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament easier.
“There must never [again] be a situation whereby what went on at the National Housing Corporation could be allowed to go on and the Public Accounts Committee . . . had to struggle to get information,” Gooding-Edghill said.
He acknowledged that the move to establish auditors and audit committees in each of these public entities would come at an additional cost to Government, but said, “I’m sure that the cost of corruption would far exceed the cost of an auditor”.