Though the Integrity in Public Life Bill has been the main focus of recent talks around Government’s aim of introducing some form of ethics legislation, Democratic Labour Party president Verla De Peiza has called for more attention to be paid to campaign finance laws.
Her comments came during her party’s weekly Sunday Roast live stream yesterday. The DLP leader said laws are needed to govern how political parties are financed, in particular during general elections, if true integrity rules and protocols are to be established and followed.
De Peiza said: “Recent events of those surrounding our own comrade and former minister Donville Inniss has brought into sharp relief that we really do need to have structure in Barbados, not just surrounding how we conduct ourselves as public servants, but also how parties are financed. Let’s be real, that is one of the offshoots of not having any structure in how we manage money in the public service.
“Elections have to be financed, we are pretty clear on that, but we need to have rules and regulations on how it is done so that we don’t have the allegations and rumours of abuse. Also, that we do not have a fostering of an environment that is even suggestive, never mind having any concrete proof, but just being suggestive of something other than strict business practices, is what we need to get away from.”
The DLP leader also underscored the need to not only address public perception in terms of such legislation but also the need as a developing economy, to have sound structures in place to root out corruption that can have adverse effects on how the island is seen internationally when it comes to the flow of money in and out of politics.
She added: “At the end of the day, we play on the world market, we coax business to Barbados and they have to be comfortable about the environment that they are coming to operate within. So it is not just about us as locals and who we bring on board to represent us, but it is also about the face of Barbados that we show to the world. That is the conversation that the Democratic Labour Party wants to open up.”
De Peiza also declared that it was the DLP’s stance that any legislation that goes forward to seriously address corruption, must not only target politicians and those seeking political office but also civil servants, who more often than not are the only persons who have the oversight and control over the movement of funds within the various agencies and government entities.
She said: “The conversation in Barbados has centred on candidates and MPs, but the reality of how business and politics [are] structured in Barbados, is that despite what people think, MPs have zero access to the public purse in any direct way. It is civil servants, especially civil servants at the higher end of the scale, who actually touch in a meaningful way, the monies that are in the consolidated fund and in the treasury.
“So any legislation that we are looking at, has also to speak to our public servants, and certainly both iterations, that of the last administration, and the failed one of the present administration, contemplated senior civil servants and senior political players, including members of parliament.”
Parliament in 2010 passed a new Prevention of Corruption Act under the 2008-2018 DLP administration of Freundel Stuart. It was intended to repeal the original law passed in 1920 when Barbados was a British colony during the reign of King George V. But the amendment was never signed into law by the Governor-General.
In response to the recent incident at the Government Industrial School (GIS), where an image of a 14-year old girl in solitary confinement was released to public outcry on the conditions the young girl was apparently made to endure, De Peiza insisted that some form of whistle-blower legislation was needed to be brought into law.
“We needed as a country to know those events were taking place against minors because if we don’t know you have a problem, you can’t take steps to fix it,” said the DLP leader. “We need to have the whistle-blowers protected, we need to have their identities covered, and we need to have all of the legislation in place.” (SB)