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News : Local Last Updated: Jan 9, 2018 - 3:58:15 PM


ORG - Public Consultation needed for Integrity Commission Bill
By Organization for Responsible Governance
Jan 9, 2018 - 11:55:11 AM

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Nassau, New Providence –  The Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG), a not-for-profit civic organization dedicated to accountable governance, education reform and economic development, has echoed Leader of the Opposition Phillip ‘Brave’ Davis’ call for broader consultation on the Integrity Commission Bill, 2017. Dubbing the bill a possible “gamechanger”, the group asserts that MPs, civil servants, private sector and the public should all be familiar with the bill and are calling for persons to read and understand the bill and submit comments at their website: www.orgbahamas.com/anticorruption.
 
“The bill is comprehensive and  the implications will be far-reaching if and when passed. If done right it could entirely change the way we address our culture of corruption,” said Matt Aubry, Executive Director of ORG. “This bill not only introduces penalties for persons taking advantage of corrupt systems, it provides protection for those who report corruption, it mandates preventative measures and public education, and perhaps most importantly, it establishes an independent body to carry out the mission of investigation, education, and prevention of corruption.”
 
Through it’s Accountable Governance Committee, a brain trust of volunteer experts from civil society, private industry, academia, media, and politics, ORG has been benchmarking the bill against regional and international examples of best practices and identified a few key areas of weakness in the bill thus far. However, ORG believes that wider public consultation and input could strengthen the bill.
 
“Though ORG’s review the bill is thorough and in line with best practices in many areas, it does have room for improvement. We urge members of the public to visit www.orgbahamas.com/anticorruption, where they can find a copy of the bill and a form to provide feedback. Recognizing that 109 pages is daunting we also provide an executive summary of the bill on the site.  All comments and recommended amendments to the bill will be catalogued and sent to the AG and MPs for consideration ahead of debate.”
 
“Independence of the commission is paramount, otherwise the provision is moot. As is currently written, the Commission is much more answerable to the Prime Minister than we have seen in other legislation, or than we believe is advisable. Currently the committees’ accounts and reports are presented to the PM, when best practice dictates they would be tabled in both houses. Additionally, the Prime Minister has the power to appoint several members of the commission upon consultation, to choose the chairman of the commission, and most concerningly to depose any member at his discretion. These provisions are out of line with best practice and obstruct the independence of the committee.”
 
While disagreeing with Davis’ comments that the bill was overly intrusive, the group agreed that there were sections of the bill that needed more clarity. Aubry said, “Greater clarity is perhaps needed on the levels of breach of code of conduct. It is clear that certain offenses including coercion, extortion, kickbacks in awarding of contracts, are criminal in nature and grounds for investigation and prosecution. Lesser offenses that fall under breaches of the code of conduct are harder to monitor and the systems for establishing and punishing those breaches are vague. Such offenses may include operating a government car for non-government business or using a public computer to send private emails. These matters must be ironed out to allow an official to conduct his or her duties while limiting opportunity for abuse. Recommendations like this are crucial to the success of the bill and the commission and that is why we feel it is crucial to broaden consultation on this game-changing bill.”

 

 

 

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