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Time to pass integrity legislation into law



For years, through successive administrations, Vincentians have been calling for the enactment of anti-corruption and integrity legislation. Last October, we got one step closer when the draft Prevention of Corruption Bill and the draft Integrity in Public Life Bill were published in local newspapers.

Maybe it is because we were wrapped up in an intense political campaign, but when the bills were published there was little comment from either the populace or politicians.{{more}}

We have heard little more about these bills since October, and hope that they have not been shelved. Truth be told, these bills stand a greater chance of being passed into law if the people push for it. Opposition parties pay lip service to the need for integrity legislation, but when they form Government, such legislation becomes less of a priority.

The conviction and imprisonment on Monday of former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Basdeo Panday on three charges of failing to disclose a London bank account to the Integrity Commission should reawaken the discussion. We hope the reality of Panday’s conviction does not serve to push the enactment of integrity legislation even lower down on the list of priorities of things to be done in our country.

The bills as drafted will affect not only parliamentarians, but also senior civil servants, police officers at the rank of Superintendent or above, members of Government Boards and senior staff of Government Corporations.

Persons holding these positions, their spouses and dependent children will be required to file declarations of their income, assets and liabilities every year after their appointment to one of the positions covered by the proposed act. Failure to file a declaration, or making a false declaration is an offence and the perpetrator is liable on summary conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of 5 years or to both fine and imprisonment. Similar penalties hold for a person found to have committed an act of corruption.

Now that we are actually seeing citizens being convicted and fined for money laundering, we ask the question: who is watching the watchman? We must now also pass into law legislation that will keep an eye on those making, administering and enforcing our laws.

                                                                      “The Payback”

This is a call for the National Lotteries Authority to have another look at their latest lotto television advertisement entitled, “The Payback”. The messages being sent in that advertisement are troubling. Message number one: a woman can be bought and will go to the highest bidder. Message number two: a man who does not have financial worth symbolized by, for example, a car will not get a woman. Message number three: If a person wins/earns money, the first thing he should acquire is an expensive vehicle. Let’s send more positive messages to our impressionable young people.