Government Senators who voted for the Integrity in Public Life legislation declared it as a way to restore confidence in public officials even as the bill itself failed to secure the Senate’s full confidence.
Ahead of the vote in which the bill fell four votes short of the two-thirds majority required for final passage, one of the ten lawmakers who voted aye for the bill was Government Senator Rudy Grant.
He declared: “This bill is aimed at renewing trust, creating a framework to allow people to be confident once again in functioning in the public arena. It is a serious thing when a country loses its confidence in its elected officials.”
He noted that while some said the bill should only focus on the political class, it was important to include high-ranking public servants and those in state enterprises.
He said: “All of us are aware of different stories circulating that in order to obtain certain licenses, permits and to import certain items, there are certain things that must be done beforehand, and there are times we may question how people who we know work in certain positions can afford high ticket items. This bill seeks to address these practices.”
Senator Grant said while people clamoured for criminal trials of corrupt public officials he noted that “sometimes evidence is inadmissible, it might not have been gathered properly and it may be insufficient, resulting in the court having to throw out the case. So it is important that if people see some sort of wrongdoing, they should not be afraid to come forward and alert the relevant authorities”.
He also responded to Independent Senator Reverend Dr John Rogers, who last week questioned the presence of chairmen and other members of statutory boards at political party conferences.
Senator Grant said: “During party conferences there are days when business is discussed, and matters pertaining to some of the state-owned enterprises come up, so this gives the senior officials in these organisations a chance to interact with the rank and file of the party, the ordinary Barbadians, who they would not get to see on a regular basis. The bill is not perfect, but its objective is one everybody can embrace.”
In her speech on the bill, Government Senator Dr Crystal Haynes, stressed that the law was aimed at rebuilding trust in public officials and that it was in the works for a very long time.
She told the Chamber: “The Tom Adams administration had a draft bill passed in the House of Assembly, but it was defeated in the Senate; the David Thompson administration promised to bring it within 100 days when they assumed office in 2008, but that never happened, while the Freundel Stuart administration passed a Prevention of Corruption Act that was not proclaimed and he defended an act that was 90 years old.”
She countered claims by Senator Monique Taitt that the bill was not properly discussed and highlighted in the media. “This legislation is not being ‘sprung’ on people,” she declared. “We first introduced this bill two years ago, the Joint Select Committee we set up to look at the bill held nearly 20 meetings, print copies of the draft bill were available at post offices and the Government Printing Department, and the committee meetings were live streamed on radio and online.”