One of the unsucessful political parties in the May 24 general election says while it welcomes the recent tabling in Parliament by Government of the Integrity in Public Life Bill, it does not believe the measure is strong enough to stamp out corruption.
In a document entitled Review of the Integrity in Public Life Bill, which was due to be submitted to a select committee of Parliament on August 24, the United Progressive Party (UPP) warned that Barbados was no longer regarded as “a clean jurisdiction”, nor was it seen as a place where it is easy to conduct business.
Therefore, “unless corruption is addressed with a great deal of rigour, Barbados will never see the development it deserves,” the UPP said.
In the 10-page document, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY, a direct link was also made between perceived corruption and the five-year general election cycle, with the UPP suggesting the unsavoury practice usually begins with campaign financing by firms which expect to be rewarded with contracts once the party they support is successful at the polls.
As a means of strengthening the current Bill, the party therefore proposed that the code of conduct for the Integrity in Public Life Commission, which is to be established under the legislation, should be made available immediately for public discussion.
It also took issue with the provision for the appointment of officers after consultation between the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, saying this method was “inappropriate” for this piece of legislation.
In order to avoid the appearance of collusion between the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition especially given the public perception that much of the corruption stems from their political organizations, the UPP recommended that the appointments be made by the Governor General or “some other person such as the Ombudsman, the Chief Justice, Chairman of the Christian Council or the Governor of the Central Bank”.
The UPP also questioned the proposed three-year tenure for persons appointed to the Commission, suggesting instead that they should serve for five years.
As it relates to incentives and protection for whistleblowers, the UPP said the current provisions in the Bill were not only “complex”, but did not encourage anyone to “take the risk” of reporting alleged corruption.
It has therefore called for “greater protection and more incentives” for whistleblowers.
The UPP also suggested that the Governor General and the Commission should have preliminary hearings before the whistleblower is asked to make “a more substantive report where he could be found liable for some offence”.
The Lynette Eastmond-led party, which failed to capture a single seat in the last poll, also suggested that the individuals appointed to the Commission should “as far as possible” be retirees, since most professionals or firms were actively seeking contracts and that could “attract the appearance of bias”.
The UPP also called for stronger relationship between the Auditor General and the Integrity Commission in order to prevent duplication of effort and to ensure that the findings of the Auditor General could be acted upon if they fall within the remit of the Commission.
“The Commission should ensure that it does not broaden the scope for foreign interests to engage in ‘fishing expeditions’ in Barbados by opening itself up to the burden of complying with foreign agencies,” the UPP added.
Just last week former Chief Justice Sir David Simmons told the joint select committee of Parliament that is reviewing the integrity legislation, there was a need for regulation of campaign financing.
Sir David also said it was necessary for Barbados to urgently implement a Freedom of Information Act.