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Gordon: Integrity body needs free hand to deal with corruption
Outgoing chairman of the Integrity Commission Kenneth Gordon says the body is being stymied in its work by existing legislation. Gordon spoke on the eve of the expiration of his term at the commission’s Know Your Forms Seminar at Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. The tenure of the commissioners is due to expire today, but Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has asked President George Maxwell Richards, whose term ends on Sunday, to allow President-elect Anthony Carmona, who assumes office on Monday, to appoint new commissioners.
Gordon said a lot of work must be done to address the perception level of corruption, though he did not necessarily accept the Corruption Perception Index by the T&T Transparency Institute, which rated T&T 80th out of 176 nations. He said while he was not taking issue with the rating it might not be totally accurate as it was based on certain circumstances, or could also be based on the fact that things were being done to deal with corruption.
“Sometimes it is because it is being addressed that perceptions occur,” Gordon added. The commission, he said, “must now try to get to the point where we can deal with more than perception and get to the actual information about corruption.” He said the commission hoped to engage in an exercise to get the information and not just corruption perceptions, which would be costly but beneficial and was expected to begin in a few months.
Gordon said the commission has been stymied by its inability to “proceed with enforcement on certain issues as aggressively as we would like,” and while the law governing the work of the commission stipulates what it can do, it does not say how it should be done. Gordon said the law only takes the commission to a certain point and no further, but after consultations the commission has prepared a document, with recommendations and amendments to be submitted to Cabinet and Parliament for approval, to give the body more teeth.
“Our recommendations will be geared to how we can aggressively fight the issue of corruption,” he said.
Noting that the commissioners were expected to be changed in a few days, Gordon said whoever is at the commission, the work would continue and he hoped citizens would realise that the issue of corruption was of concern to all and not just the commissioners. He said the commission should be judged on what it has done over the past 12 months.
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