Planning director: CPA board interests will be public

In response to an audit report calling for more transparency, the Central Planning Authority is making public a registry of business, property, financial and other interests for its board members and employees.

Speaking at a Public Accounts Committee hearing on Wednesday, Planning Director Haroon Pandohie said his department is in the process of updating its registry of interests, which is available on the department’s website.

As of Wednesday morning, filings were available online for Planning Authority board members A.L. Thompson, Edgar Ashton Bodden, Tommie Bodden, Kris Bergstrom, Eldon Rankin, Selvin Richardson, Trent McCoy and Rex Miller, as well as Pandohie and his deputy, Ron Sanderson. Filings were also available for electrical board of examiners member Carlos Powell, building inspector Alan Renald, and Development Control Board – the Sister Islands’ version of the Planning Authority – members Zanda McLean and Andrea Stevens.

Filings were not posted for Planning Authority members Peterkin Berry, Ray Hydes, Fred Whittaker, Joseph Coe, or Robert Watler Jr.

But while the Planning Authority has expressed a commitment to regularly update its register of interests, there may not be a legal requirement for it to do so.

Public Accounts Committee Chairman Ezzard Miller asked Pandohie what measures he could take if a board member does not declare his interests.

“Outside of continuing to ask them to comply – and seeking assistance from the chairman and ministry – I would be limited as to what action I can take ultimately to enforce that,” Pandohie replied, adding that he has no auditing mechanism for making sure the register is accurate and adhered to during planning meetings.

Pandohie also said the Public Authorities Law, which establishes good-governance measures for public authorities, does not apply to the Central Planning Authority. He said his department is trying to follow the “spirit” of that law, even though it is not technically required to do so.

The Standards in Public Life Law would require the Central Planning Authority to have its members declare their interests, but that law has been dormant for some five years.

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said at a January Public Accounts Committee hearing on the same subject that concerns persist about the Standards in Public Life Law. He said board members are primarily concerned about disclosing their financial interests to the public.

“They’re not concerned that they have to report a conflict; they’re concerned that they have to make their entire holdings public,” Manderson said in January. “We’re still working to have this addressed.”

Manderson said at the time that he does not have a timeline for when a new Standards of Public Life Law would be presented in the Legislative Assembly, but that doing so is a priority for government.

Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose made similar statements at the January hearing, saying Premier Alden McLaughlin has plans to review the law and is discussing this with the attorney general. The public can expect an announcement on this in the “not too distant future”, he said at the time.