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Foreign expert: Integrity body a waste of time (with CNC3 video)
Deputy chairman of Transparency International (TI) Bertrand de Speville says T&T seems close to resignation in the anti-corruption fight and the public perceives the Integrity Commission (IC) as ineffective. Furthermore, the IC is wasting its energy and resources receiving declarations of public officers’ assets and liabilities. What it really needs is the power to arrest, search and seize, to intercept communications and investigate bank accounts, de Speville said.
“The Integrity Commission, in my view, is wasting its time and resources in this activity,” De Speville said yesterday at an anti-corruption conference at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, hosted by the T&T Transparency Institute. De Speville, who is from the United Kingdom, was speaking on the topic “The Case for an Anti-Corruption Agency.”
The former adviser to the Council of Europe’s Multidisciplinary Group on Corruption said there seemed to be a belief in T&T that in the declaration of assets, someone involved in corruption can be caught. However, he said all the commission can do is verify the information and there seems to be no point in declaring it. His unflattering comments on the IC were made in the presence of its chairman, Ken Gordon, who attended the conference.
Later, during the conference’s morning break, Gordon held a brief “discussion” with de Speville. With de Speville still nearby, Gordon then told the media what he told the TI deputy chairman. “I told him there were a number of instances when you can get information in the declaration of assets and liabilities,” Gordon said. “If he could restate his case and support it with international information, he could make representation on that basis.”
Gordon said he totally disagreed with the view that the IC was ineffective, and said the commission was on an education drive with state enterprises and the public and the results would be unveiled over the next 12 months. De Speville began his presentation by recalling he was invited to T&T in 2003 to look at anti-corruption measures. “Ten years later I have not seen much change...There’s an air, not of despair, but close to resignation,” he said.
He said in 2003 he was asked whether a separate anti-corruption agency should be formed or whether the IC should be equipped and left to do the job. He came to the view the IC was the better route to take. However, today, the IC was regarded as ineffective and appears to be viewed in much the same way, he said. “I have a feeling the perception is much the same today,” he said.
De Speville blamed the powerlessness of the IC on the Integrity in Public Life Act, which does not outline the features of an anti-corruption body. “What isn’t there are some of the powers necessary to investigate. The powers of arrest, search and seizure, to intercept communication and investigate bank accounts.” With these powers the IC can be made a very effective body, he insisted.
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