By YOURI KEMP
Anti-corruption activists yesterday said it would be a "major breakthrough" if the Integrity Commission Bill is ready and "on the table" for when the House of Assembly reconvenes.
They were responding to comments made yesterday by Carl Bethel QC, who told Tribune Business that the long-awaited legislation was "on the table for the next sitting of the House" once "some amendments" were made.
Lemarque Campbell, an anti-corruption activist, hailed Mr Bethel's statement as "great news". He added: "Giving the long-standing wait for the Bill, all the way from October 2017 when it was first tabled, it would be a significant breakthrough, even though I'm not aware of any of the amendments Mr Bethel is speaking about. I am anxious to see what amendments would be made."
He called on the government to circulated any changes to civil society groups for consultation prior to the Bill being debated in parliament. Mr Campbell said his primary concerns were proper enforcement of the Bill's provisions in addition to making sure the proposed Integrity Commission is adequately funded to do its job.
The proposed Integrity Commission Bill will dissolve and replace the current Public Disclosure Committee, establishing a comprehensive and independent anti-corruption body to reform anti-corruption policy, investigate issues of corruption, administer public disclosure, and educate the public.
Mr Campbell, meanwhile, added: "We are also awaiting the debate and consultations on the proposed Ombudsman Bill that was also tabled in October 2017, and the rest of the provisions in the Freedom of Information Act to be brought into force.
There are some sections that have been brought into force, but the majority of the Act has not been brought into force. In particular,only Section 47 has been brought into force - the Whistleblower provisions. But even the whistleblower provisions do not go into great detail with regard to the actual mechanics on how the process should go; just a blanket protection for a whistleblower."
"I hope the government would look at the contextual similarities in the region, particularly with the Integrity Act in Guyana, for instance, that was established in 1997, and also the same Jamaica passed in 2017. If we can get an understanding of the experiences from these countries we can enhance our own Integrity Bill moving forward."
Mr Campbell continued: "The most important thing is to see the Bill enforced after it has been debated and passed. For example, with the Public Disclosure Act not being enforced we don't want the Integrity Act to end up like that where no one adheres to it.
"Lack of funding for the Integrity Commission proposed in the Bill would hamper our efforts. For example, in Guyana they had a situation where they could not provide funding for a member of their commission, which brought their efforts to a standstill. We have to make sure the commission is independent from political interference and provided with the adequate funding to make it effective."