Yesterday’s failed attempt to pass the Integrity in Public Life Bill in the Senate has raised questions over Government’s commitment to enforcing anti-corruption legislation.
Integrity Group Barbados Inc (IGB), along with two of the country’s political parties, the United Progressive Party (UPP) and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), all expressed disappointment regarding the circumstances that led to the Bill being defeated.
With a walkout of four senators who opposed Senator Lisa Cummins’ presence in the Upper Chamber and with two abstentions, the two-thirds majority or 14 votes required for the Bill to be passed was not met.
Several members were also absent from the day’s sitting.
IGB Chairman Andy Armstrong told Barbados TODAY he was “shocked and in disbelief” over yesterday’s drama in the Upper House.
He said he did not understand why the Bill was put to a vote if the required numbers were not present.
“We are disappointed and in disbelief that that could have happened, particularly the circumstances in which it happened. If indeed you needed 14 people to vote for it and you only had 12 people present in the House, none of us really understands why they put it to a vote.
“We’re not the experts in parliamentary procedure but it would seem like it was guaranteed to fail and it would have seemed better to have delayed and come back and voted on it when you had enough people present so you would know if it could pass or not,” Armstrong said.
“One would have thought since this is one of, if not the most important piece of legislation they had committed to pass in this first five years, I wouldn’t like to think that they really didn’t want it to pass. I would like to think that somebody got it really wrong yesterday, but it’s just inexplicable.”
Armstrong pointed out that Barbados is one of the few countries within the region that did not have some form of Integrity Bill.
With Parliament to be prorogued on August 8, he said he hoped the Bill could be passed as soon as possible.
“Ideally, I would have hoped they would be able to just lay it in the Senate again at the first sitting in September, but if that is not possible then I would hope very quickly the Government would do whatever is necessary.
“If they have to do a few amendments to the Bill before they send it back that it would be done within a matter of a few months and not stretch it out to a year and a half to two years again,” Armstrong said.
President of the DLP Verla De Peiza expressed dismay at the Government’s failure to pass the Bill.
In a statement, she said the botched attempt suggested Government had no intention of passing the Bill.
“There was no difficulty rushing it through the House of Assembly, where the numbers game is a foregone conclusion. But it is the duty of the Leader of Government Business to know his vote count as he pilots legislation through the Senate Chamber.
“If the required number of warm bodies were not present, standard practice dictates that the vote could have been postponed until the next day or even the day after, to ensure safe passage of the Bill. It was known that the numbers present were low. There was a walkout after the irresponsible attendance by the Minister of Tourism on day six of her quarantine. Why then was a vote taken?” De Peiza questioned.
“The DLP then calls into question the commitment and intent of this administration to the Integrity in Public Life Bill. The initial flurry of activity, the inordinate delay and finally the rushed nature of this final debate make it fair comment that the Government may well never have been as determined to pass this Bill as they led the country to believe.”
Everton Holligan, chairman of the UPP, described yesterday’s events as a “fiasco”.
He said it showed Government was not serious in passing anti-corruption legislation.
“We vividly recall that the implementation of these laws was one of the pillars of the Barbados Labour Party’s 2018 election campaign in an effort to eliminate corruption by public officials,” Holligan said.
“It is also noted that passage of this legislation was fraught with delays when lesser bills have found quick and easy passage. This fiasco demonstrates to the Barbadian public that the Mottley administration is not serious about this law and merely paying lip service to the notion of integrity.”
Efforts to reach Leader of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PdP) Bishop Joseph Atherley for comment were unsuccessful. [email protected]