At least two independent Senators expressed reservations about the Integrity in Public Life Bill before it failed to get the nod of the Upper Chamber during today’s debate.
The bill, which seeks to stamp out corruption only found favour with ten Government senators while two other legislators abstained from the vote.
Senator Monique Taitt, who sat on the Joint Select Committee Government established to facilitate discussion of the legislation, told the Upper House: “This bill will affect the lives of public servants in a significant way, as it not only speaks to them, but also their spouses and their dependent children in terms of the declaration of assets.
“To my mind, this should have been treated the way the BOSS legislation was, where meetings were held with public sector workers across the board. Since this bill will affect public servants at all levels, some of whom might not have been courageous enough to appear in the Senate chamber to voice their concerns at the committee meetings, town hall meetings should have been held, and the Government Information Service should have had programmes spelling out what the bill seeks to accomplish,” she suggested.
Meanwhile, Senator Lindell Nurse questioned why judges were not included among the high level officials captured in the bill.
He also called on Government to consider implementing legislation on campaign financing, as part of the bill or in a separate piece of legislation.
“We are not referring to the $50,000 that individual candidates declare after elections, but the big contributions by business interests who finance political parties with the hope of being repaid eventually.”
Like Senator Toni Moore in her contribution last week, Senator Nurse also called for whistleblower provisions within the act.
“Civil servants know a lot about what is going on and they can provide information, but they are often reluctant to come forward for fear of victimisation, and not only civil servants, but members of the public in general should be able to go to the commission and report on anything that seems amiss.
“I would also have liked to see some provision made for forfeiture of assets if it can be proven that they were acquired through an act of corruption, and we should also establish a Contractor General’s office to ensure that contracts are given out based on efficiency, and not because there is some level of excess costing that acts as a ‘kickback’ to someone. However, in establishing such an office, it will need sufficient resources to carry out its job effectively.” Nurse said.