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Lack Of Appointments Leaves Disclosures Action In Limbo

By KHRISNA VIRGIL

Deputy Chief Reporter

kvirgil@tribunemedia.net

DESPITE the Minnis administration’s frequent indication that delinquent financial disclosures will no longer be tolerated, the work of the Public Disclosure Commission remains in limbo as its appointments have yet to be officially made, according to commission Chairman Myles Laroda yesterday.

Mr Laroda told The Tribune while Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has verbally assured him of his reappointment as the head of the PDC, he still has not received an official letter of appointment nor does he know who else is expected to form the new commission.

Regarding the apparent lag in this process, Press Secretary Anthony Newbold said the work will continue when the two additional members of the commission are officially appointed.

He said the holdup is the release of the list of board appointees.

The Tribune understands all of the appointments have already been agreed upon, but it is unclear why these appointees have not been published in an official gazette.

“I don’t have anything to say because I still haven’t been given my official letter of appointment,” Mr Laroda said yesterday when he was contacted for a status update on the PDC’s work.

“I have been told so by the prime minister in consultation. I have also read these weird statements in the newspapers, but I have not been given a letter and I am not going to go into the commission to conduct any work because I don’t know who the other commissioners are and it’s not my job to go and be a one-man band. I wouldn’t even try. The law doesn’t allow it,” he said yesterday.

Last week Mr Laroda maintained that the hardline position taken by the new administration has made a significant impact on the culture of non-compliance that plagued the commission.

There are three remaining delinquent members of Parliament.

“I can’t say because I’m not there and I’m only one voice,” Mr Laroda said, when asked the fate of the remaining three delinquent MPs last week.

“The other two (PDC) members could decide otherwise. We have always been led by consensus. You’ll have to look at all of the circumstances to see.

Mr Laroda continued: “I don’t have no special knowledge or anything but the prime minister did say in their manifesto that they would amend the (Public Disclosure) Act. We don’t know what the new amendments would be so I think that would be getting ahead.”

He suggested that if delinquent MPs become compliant during that period, there may be no need to turn over names to the Office of the Attorney General for prosecution.

“We are at a point where there (are) only three people and right now what I think, it’s shining a light. Now the public has become aware, they read about it in the papers,” Mr Laroda said last week. “Now they start to demand accountability, (prosecution or penalties) there are those who want a pound of flesh but that day (of non-compliance) is at its end, and maybe this situation we will never go back to where people think it’s okay to just disregard the law.”

On June 6, Mr Newbold told the media that Dr Minnis had given former and sitting parliamentarians three weeks to file disclosures or face the court for breaking the law.

Present and former parliamentarians and senators, along with senior public officers, are required to submit their disclosures to the PDC by March each year.

The law specifies that persons in breach could face a fine of $10,000, or two years in prison, or both, or confiscation of land if land is involved.

At the time, Mr Newbold said the deadline affected more than 20 MPs, adding that the number of parliamentarians that did not disclose for the entire five years was “not less than six.”

There was a July 3 timeline set by Dr Minnis for the files on delinquent disclosures to be sent to the Office of the Attorney General.

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