The Davis administration’s term is still early, but so far it has shown a culture of lack of transparency and non-compliance surrounding civil servant financial disclosure.
The Public Disclosure Act, a legal anti-corruption mechanism, provides all Senators and MPs with a declaration of assets, income and liabilities to the Public Disclosure Committee by March 1 and December 31. It is obligatory to do.
The law of Article 15 also authorizes the Commission to extend the period for submitting the “further period not exceeding 30 days” declaration.
Victor Cooper, Chairman of the Public Disclosure Committee (PDC), said: National Review On Monday, some new members were “unaware” of the legal requirements and could be granted an extension.
The extension exceeds the 30-day extension period stipulated by law.
“As I said earlier, some new members are unaware, and as a result, some are looking into it, so it’s said they need to get information, and they’ll do it as soon as possible. Was advised, “Cooper said.
When we pointed out to him, Cooper said the law provided for a 30-day extension.
We reminded the bishop, who said he was appointed only in January, that ignorance is not an excuse for violating the law.
“I suspect this has happened for some time, but I’ve just entered, so I asked them to do it as soon as possible,” he said.
Under Article 5 of the Act, the declaration includes reporting on the assets, income and liabilities of the claimant, his spouse, and his children.
However, when it comes to meeting the legal requirements under the Public Disclosure Act, our political leaders have shown complete disregard for many years.
Selectively comply with the laws they obey and the laws they ignore.
He emphasized this point last week when he investigated the fact that the Davis administration violated the Public Procurement Act, which came into force on September 1, 2021.
Public Disclosure Law is important in the fight against corruption.
The law provides that the Public Disclosure Commission examines all declarations submitted by members of parliament, senators, senior civil servants and officially appointed persons.
In addition, the Commission’s official bulletin should allow the general public to see who declared and who did not.
For many years, the Public Disclosure Commission has failed to meet this legal requirement for publishing a report.
The latest official bulletin was from December 2011 and contained only information on disclosures up to 2008. This is 14 years unresolved.
Miles Laroda, chair of the PDC from 2015 to 2021, said:
“… I don’t feel like wasting time, but I want to know that the work we’ve done is published in the official bulletin in a more expeditionary way.”
The statement by La Roda was made in 2017. He resigned last year before accepting Pinewood’s nomination from the Progressive Liberal Party.
After Laloda’s resignation, the Cabinet Office announced that George Carey had been appointed chairman.
This week we contacted Carrie asking what he was able to achieve during the months of chairmanship, but he didn’t comment.
La Roda Nassau Guardian On Monday, as MP, he submitted the disclosure on time, in accordance with the law.
Opposition leader Michael Pintaldo confirmed that he was in time for the deadline and said he wasn’t sure, but he believed that all members of the opposition were the same.
On Monday, Cooper was unable to talk about how many civil servants were in time for the submission deadline.
However, Prime Minister Phil Davis’s office confirmed yesterday that he had submitted the disclosure on time.
Lack of independence
As law enforcement progresses, public disclosure law is at the top of the list of unenforced. Some civil servants have filed disclosures on time for years, but the general public has not benefited from the transparency that the law seeks to ensure.
The law provides for a person who violates the law a fine of $ 10,000 and / or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.
If the crime involves a deliberate non-disclosure of the property, in addition to a fine and / or imprisonment, the property inside Bahama will be confiscated by the government and if it is outside, the value of the property will be lost. , Payed by the criminal.
There is no doubt that the current law passed in 1976 is outdated. Modernized legislation is needed to strengthen the power of the Commission, and there are not enough resources to effectively carry out the work of the Commission.
After resigning last year, Mr. Laroda said the committee functioned as a division of the Cabinet Office during his tenure.
“While I was there, we haven’t announced anything so far,” he said.
“We didn’t have the budget. Our budget for what we got came from what was assigned to us …. We don’t have an account and don’t write checks. Everything done [is done through the] Cabinet Office. “
In 2015, a report from the Organization of American States (OAS) noted that the Commission lacked the technical tools to perform its function.
At that time, the Commission was using the following machines to perform its functions: one adding machine, two word processors, and a fax machine.
The committee does not have an electronic system to receive the tax returns, so there is no electronic database in use. The report states that the data is stored in the filing system.
The OAS MESICIC (Follow-up Mechanism for the Implementation of the Anti-Corruption Treaty) report, dated March 20, 2015, states: Independence to carry out its function is essential in considering the declarations submitted by ministers and the Prime Minister, including the Prime Minister. “
The report observed a relatively low level of compliance by those subject to the act of submitting a declaration at or before the legally mandated time frame.
In this regard, the committee conducting the review stated that one of the difficulties mentioned during the site visit was the delay in obtaining declarations from parliamentarians, senators, senior civil servants and officially appointed persons. rice field.
The report publishes the names of officials who did not submit a declaration as required under the Public Disclosure Act, in addition to the report sent to the Prime Minister and opposition leaders regarding the disclosures made by the Bahamas. It was recommended to consider that.
“Because it’s difficult to get these declarations, publishing the name can help promote compliance, even though it’s the default,” the report said.
We recommended that the Commission be empowered to report directly to the Attorney General or the police. This is when the subject of the act encounters alleged corruption.
The report has produced a long list of recommendations, including the independence of the committee.
We also recommended that the summarized declaration be published online so that the general public can be assured of more access.
Reform and modernization have long been promised, but not realized.
When he spoke at the Anti-Corruption Conference in the Cayman Islands in March 2014, then Prime Minister Perry Christie acknowledged serious disregard by officials of the Public Disclosure Law.
“The law governing the financial disclosure of parliamentarians and senior officials, however, has not proven to be a model of careful compliance,” said Christie, who outlines the Bahamas’ anti-corruption law. It pointed out.
Nonetheless, he said that the Public Disclosure Act was “somehow used, somehow used and implemented as part of the national battle against corruption in the Bahamas” in a package of legislative provisions and mechanisms. Said it was part.
Some former MPs have previously admitted in the media that they violated the law for failing to disclose.
In February 2011, then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said, “The last time I did was the day before the 2007 elections.”
That means he hadn’t disclosed it for four years until then.
Ingraham admitted at the time that “members of parliament do not comply with the Public Disclosure Act.”
At that time, the last public disclosure was made on November 3, 2004, with information up to 2000.
Ingraham said he was not in a position to instruct other civil servants to disclose financial information in light of his breach.
In a 2013 report, the Constitutional Commission said:
“But these days, under successive governments, the Public Disclosure Commission is essentially a dead letter.”
The 1976 law has not been amended since it was enacted.
In October 2017, just months after taking office, the Minis administration introduced an integrity committee bill that would abolish the outdated public disclosure law.
The bill covers corruption, including the actions of civil servants in the awarding of contracts, soliciting or accepting personal interests, or providing benefits to others by doing or not doing so. I detailed it in detail. Or she acts as a civil servant.
The bill remained shelved throughout the four-and-a-half-year term of the Minis administration.
On Monday, Pintard, the minister of the administration, regretted that the bill was never passed.
“We had many important laws that were completed and not discussed,” he said.
“In fact, I said I missed many notable opportunities in the Parliament building, which was exacerbated by the fact that the elections took place prematurely, and quite frankly about my disappointment with it. I was told. Decision. “
The Davis administration, like its predecessor, has promised the latest legislation related to public disclosure and other anti-corruption laws and election reform bills.
The “Blueprint of Our Transformation” states: Law, Election Reform Law, and Procurement Law. “
To date, the legislative agenda has never been solid.
Like other governments, the Davis administration had to prioritize issues – priorities for the past nine months have found ways to respond to pandemics, economics, finances, and increasing inflationary pressures. Is to try.
There are still no signs that they are serious about implementing the kind of legislative changes promised in pre-election documents.
The later your term, the more likely you are not to want to address such controversial issues. The Davis administration is the overwhelming majority in parliament. If you want to pass those measures, they will.
For the people, who do not require the government to comply with the law, we do not immediately expect, if any, to fully comply with the Public Disclosure Law, and even the Public Procurement Law. Hmm.
Our political leaders continue to see compliance with these laws as an option rather than an obligation.
https://thenassauguardian.com/disclosure-transparency/ Disclosure and Transparency-Nassau Guardian