Sonia Bush to head ethics watchdog

Attorney Sonia Bush has been appointed the new chairman of the Commission for Standards in Public Life.

Bush was appointed to the post by Governor Martyn Roper, according to a press release issued on Tuesday. She replaces former chairman Rosie Whittaker-Myles, who served in the post for the last six years.

The commission is charged with overseeing the execution of the Standards in Public Life legislation.

The tenure at the commission of both Whittaker-Myles and commission member Sheenah Hislop recently came to an end, according to the release which was issued by the Governor’s Office.

Together with Bush’s appointment, Roper added J. Rosalie Twohey, Richard Addlestone and Keith Blake as commission members.

All appointments became effective 1 May and run for a term of four years. The new appointees join existing member Isatou Smith, who was appointed to a four-year term on 1 Nov. 2018.

The commission is tasked with ensuring elected representatives are held to ethical standards.

Last March, some six years after its passage in the then Legislative Assembly, the Standards in Public Life Act and its accompanying regulations came into force.

Under the law, a Member of Parliament who contravenes the act can be found in contempt of the House, and the legislature can order the member’s suspension from sitting and voting for a period determined by the MPs.

Established under Section 117 of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009, the commission, the release said, is an independent body enshrined in the Constitution to enhance democracy in the country and ensure that there is sufficient oversight of the public sector.

“I am very pleased to make these new appointments and warmly welcome the new Chairman and Members who I know will collectively continue to advance the work of the CSPL” Roper said in the release.

He commended the work of commission members during their tenure which led to the commencement of the long-awaited Standards in Public Life Act and Regulations, which was “an important step forward for good governance for the Cayman Islands”.

The governor added, “I would like to thank Mrs. Whittaker-Myles and Ms. Hislop for their time, dedication and valuable contributions to the CSPL. I would like to especially thank Mrs. Whittaker-Myles for her guidance and leadership during her tenure.”

The Standards in Public Life Act adopts the ‘Nolan Principles’ – which are to be followed by anyone elected or appointed to public office – selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.

All public officers holding the post of heads of departments, sections, units or higher, as well as their deputies and those acting in those positions, are legally required to submit annual declarations. Board members of statutory authorities, government companies and constitutionally created commissions are also required to complete declarations.

This year, for the first time, candidates nominated for election were required to file declarations under the Standards in Public Life Act.

Previously, only elected and official members of the Legislative Assembly, and the Speaker were required to do so in the Register of Interests.

Under the law, any person in public life who fails to submit a declaration, makes a false declaration, or refuses to provide requested information without reasonable cause may be liable to penalties ranging from $100 for each day in default, to, on summary conviction, a fine of $10,000 or to imprisonment for two years, or to both.

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