The much-touted Integrity in Public Life Bill and supporting pieces of legislation will be made into law in time for Independence this year, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Dale Marshall has promised.
Insisting that the Mia Mottley-led administration was taking a “zero tolerance” approach to corruption, Marshall said the time for lip service had come to an end.
“Let me begin by putting your minds at ease. Our Integrity in Public Life Bill will be proclaimed before the end of this year, and I am earnestly hoping that we can put everything in place so that it can be proclaimed before the end of the first half of the financial year. Rest assured that we will deliver this bill and much more,” Marshall promised the business community on Wednesday.
“We have just started and we still have a way to go but I am confident that all of the legislative instruments will pass through out Parliament successfully within the next three months and will be proclaimed and become law in time for Independence celebrations,” he said.
Marshall was addressing a special Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) breakfast meeting at the Hilton Resort under the theme Guided by Integrity: Moving Towards Good Governance and Reduced Corruption.
During the function, President of the BCCI Trisha Tannis raised several concerns.
Pointing to the island’s drop on the corruption perception index over the years, Tannis said this was a cause for concern, and suggested that Barbados could look to Denmark for best practices.
Though welcoming the proposed legislation, she expressed disappointment that the process was taking too long and the fines were not high enough to encourage deterrence.
However, in his response, Marshall sought to justify the delay of the promised pieces of legislation, saying that while work has been ongoing over “the past few months”, there was a lack of resources including “fewer than ten drafters”.
“In the last 12 months we have passed almost 70 different statutes. In addition to those statutes, some of which have been fairly significant, we have had to deal with hundreds and hundreds of other legislative instruments. In addition to that, a number of other things have happened along the way,” added Marshall.
As for the level of proposed fines, Marshall promised that they “are going to be rightly in the hundreds of thousands of dollars” to reflect the seriousness with which we see absence of integrity in public life.
In addition to the Integrity in Public Life Bill, he gave the assurance that legislation would be put in place to protect whistleblowers, with other supporting laws including the Prevention of Corruption Bill, and one for the establishment of a Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency.
“Rather than having a hodge-podge integrity bill with all kinds of things thrown in it like the proverbial kitchen sink, as a matter of governance and for the sake of good order it would be better to have dedicated, special purpose pieces of legislation,” said Marshall.
“So these four statutes . . . when passed, will constitute a coherent and logical suite of legislation that will strengthen our ability as a country to deal comprehensively and meaningfully with many of the thorny issues and nefarious deeds that plague modern Barbados. We want them to come into being more or less at the same time,” he said.
He also mentioned that the Proceeds and Instrumentalities of Crime Act, which has been passed and soon to be proclaimed, would support the efforts against crime and corruption.
Further outlining the seriousness of the administration to tackle the issue of corruption, he said it was Government’s intention to implement “an option of a civil penalty regime”, which could see an offending entity paying “a civil fine where that entity corporates with the authorities”.
“This is not in anyway to be construed as us being soft on corruption,” said Marshall, who called on the private sector and civil society to play their part in helping to rid the country of corrupt practices.
The Government official said legislation made provision for investigation of “unexplained wealth” going back 20 years.
“We are so serious about this that even past ministers of the Barbados Labour Party might well find themselves caught in the net,” he added.