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Integrity In Public Life Bill 2020 gets nod in House

GERCINE CARTER, [email protected]

Integrity In Public Life Bill 2020 gets nod in House

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The long-mooted move to legislate for integrity in public life came a step closer to reality today with the passing of the Integrity in Public Life Bill 2020 in the House of Assembly.

It replaces the Integrity in Public Life Bill 2018, which was initially laid in the House and was withdrawn today, after the passing of a Resolution in which the 843-page report of the Joint Select Committee for the Integrity in Public Life Bill 2018 was adopted.

While tabling the resolution, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said when the Integrity in Public Life Bill 2020 passed both Houses of Parliament there would be a “nine-month gestation period” to ensure that everyone who is likely to be affected by the bill is trained, adding that no one “should be held accountable without public education”.

The integrity legislation applies to all members of the House of Assembly and the Senate, all members of Cabinet, all permanent secretaries, all heads of department in the Public Service, chairpersons of state-owned enterprises, magistrates, directors of public prosecution, the auditor general, as well as other senior public officers.

The Prime Minister maintained a “preponderance of corrupt concerns and activities have taken place more in the state-owned enterprises than in Central government” and she said that was “largely because of a general absence of rigorous legislative support and oversight for state-owned enterprises”.

The absence of such oversight she added, “has led to fiscal difficulties as has been seen at state-owned entities such as the Barbados Water Authority, the Transport Board and the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation”.

But judges will not be included in the bill, an issue about which the Prime Minister said there was much debate initially.

“I am conscious that while initially Sir David [former Chief Justice Sir David Symmonds] agreed that he saw no reason why they should be exempted in the legislation, I am told that subsequent deliberations of the Committee and consultations with him and others have suggested that we will not include judges in the this Bill.”

However, the Prime Minister told the House: “At a very personal level . . . while I am prepared to accept and usher in the Bill as is, I feel very strongly that in our country there cannot be persons excluded from public life because of the fact that they sit on a bench and therefore I have asked the Honourable Attorney General to ensure that there is a special bill dedicated to judicial officers at the very high level.” (GC)