Ethics commission urges change in law

A new commission set up to vet
standards of conduct by people in public office says legislative reform is
needed before it can properly carry out its role.

The Commission for Standards in
Public Life, chaired by Karin Thompson, released its first report since it was
established in January under the new constitution. The report was tabled in the
Legislative Assembly on Friday, 10 September.

The commission’s report stated that
a review of its work during its first six months concluded that legislation
needed to be changed to enable the five-member body to fulfil its powers and
functions, as outlined in the constitution, and that maintaining a register of
interests by members of the Legislative Assembly and other members of public
life was a “hollow exercise” without the relevant “supporting and enforceable
legislation”.

“Section 117 of the Constitution
clearly envisages a law that will guide and support the [commission] in its
endeavours to promote the highest standards of integrity and competence in
public life and to prevent corruption or conflicts of interests by all employed
in public service. Without the requisite enabling legislation, the [commission]
is restricted from meeting its mandate in an appropriate and effective manner,”
the report, which was tabled in the Legislative Assembly, last week, read.

 

Clarity needed

The commission’s report stated the
wording of the relevant sections in the Constitution, sections 121(2) and
121(4), did not make it clear exactly who was required to register interests.

The first states that “it is the
duty of any person to whom this section applies to declare to the Commission
for Standards on Public Life, for entry in the Register of Interests, such
interests, assets, income and liabilities of that person, or of any other
person connected with him or her, as may be prescribed in law”. The second
states that “the section applies to all members of the Legislative Assembly and
the holders of such other offices, except that of the Governor, as may be prescribed
in law”.

“However, it is not immediately
clear “who” or “what” needs to be prescribed by the “law” referred to in
section 121(2),” the commission’s report stated. It said that there is also a
question over what was meant by “any other person connected with him” and how
that “person” should be determined.

The report went on to say that the
lack of required Standards in Public Life Legislation rendered additional
responsibilities of the commission “meaningless in so far as it relates to the
commission’s ability to validate powers of compliance monitoring for standards
in public life and investigations of potential breaches”.

The lack of legislation also called
into question the ability of the commission to review and strengthen procedures
for awarding public contracts and making public appointments, one of its
mandated functions under the constitution.

“Without such statutory provisions,
the CSPL may only, in effect, address matters regarding its proposed standards
in public life in the broadest terms possible,” the report said. It concluded:
“Clearly, the necessary means must be secured to empower the CSPL to fulfil its
mandate in accordance with the provisions laid down by the constitution. Only
then can the commission effectively turn its attention to garnering public
involvement and support through educational initiatives in public life.”

 

Biannual reports required

The commission is required to
present a report to the Legislative Assembly at least every six months.

Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks, who
tabled the report in the Legislative Council, said the commission, and others
established under the constitution promulgated in November last year, was expected
to put forward proposals for enactment of legislation “to better give effect to
the discharge of the functions which the constitution has prescribed as falling
to them. In turn, I would anticipate that the reporting relationship which the
constitution calls for will be addressed in that local legislation.”

He invited members of the House to
read the report, which he said puts forth new regulations that all members
should be aware of, including the maintenance of the Register of Interests.

The commission members have met with
Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor, the Central Tenders Committee, MLA Ellio
Solomon, who is chairman of the Standing Committee for the Register of
Interests in the Legislative Assembly, Police Commissioner David Baines, who is
chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly
and Registrar of Interests Zena Merren, and Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick.

Among the functions of the
commission are assisting in setting standards of integrity and competence in
public life to prevent corruption or conflicts of interests; monitoring ethical
conduct of members of the Legislative Assembly, Cabinet and public authorities
and public officers; supervising the operation of registers of interest and
investigating breaches of standards; reviewing and establishing procedures for
awarding public contracts; reviewing and establishing procedures for appointing
members to public authorities; and recommending codes of conduct for ministers,
public authorities and public officers.

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1 COMMENT

  1. The whole concept and thinking behind the legislation is really to try to prevent corruption in public life.So for a start change the name of the Legislation ad initio to reflect the true intent and purpose and call it "Prevention of Corruption in Public Life Act" you can legislate to prevent corruption but can never legislate for integrity.Your present legislation is fatally flawed from the inception by starting with its very name.

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