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Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Gordon proposes new corruption barometer
Chairman of the Integrity Commission Kenneth Gordon is requesting Cabinet approval for the establishment of a T&T corruption index. Gordon said that during his address at Monday’s Christmas annual dinner for the commission at the Hyatt Regency hotel, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain. The commission, which is housed at the Unit Trust building on Independence Square, will occupy new headquarters at Tower D of the Waterfront Complex from next year.
Gordon said the annual Transparency Institute Corruption Perception Index was only a reflection of a perception of corruption. The proposed T&T Corruption Index would serve as “a corruption barometer, designed to specifically measure the occurrence of actual corruption in T&T,” he said. Among those attending the event were former chief justice and president of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Michael de la Bastide, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard and head of the Public Service Reynold Cooper.
Gordon said the TTCI “should prove to be a reliable tool at many different levels for measuring corruption.” In explaining how it was expected to work, Gordon said there should be a “baseline survey with subsequent annual surveys to update the index.” He said the sample should question 5,000 people from targeted sectors, with a margin of error of three-four per cent.
He said the survey should target but not be limited to the private sector, civil society, non-governmental organisations, police and armed forces, public officials, local government bodies and investors. The commission is partnering with the University of the West Indies on this project. The recommendation was submitted to the secretary to the Cabinet on August 6, he said, and a response was still forthcoming.
Gordon also renewed his call for the Integrity in Public Life Act be amended to “empower the commission to act rather than be almost entirely be dependent on the co-operation of those being investigated.” He said the commission had “no power of sanction,” adding that its “only route is through the High Court to compel compliance with some of its demands for information and documentation.” He said even in those situations, “There are demands which the commission is empowered to make which cannot be enforced.”
Gordon quoted section 11 (7) of the act which says the commission may make an ex-parte application to the court when needed, describing one case in which the commission “moved immediately and did everything we could to commence immediate action against 12 persons who failed to provide further particulars as required.” Nevertheless, he said, “Unfortunately, with the best will in the world, it has taken five weeks before an order could be served against the first declarant.”
Even where sanctions could be applied promptly, long delays are inherently built into the existing system, he said, adding, “These are not normal times and it is important that instances of non-compliance and possible corruption be dealt with promptly.” Describing 2013 as another highly productive year for the commission, Gordon said it was not constituted to win either popularity contests or friends. “Our role is to promote integrity and reduce corrupt behaviour,” he added.
“Conflict is therefore unavoidable. The public spotlight is harsh and demanding but this should not be at the cost of civilised behaviour.” The delay in appointing new commissioners did not adversely affect the internal objectives of the commission, said its chairman. The new members of the commission, Deputy Chairman Justice Sebastian Ventour, Dr Shelly-Ann Lalchan, Deonarine Jaggernauth and Seunarine Jokhoo (retained) were appointed more than three months after the term of the previous commissioners expired in March.
Gordon said 54 matters had been brought before the commission since the new members were appointed and 48 had been completed, so that with the inherited backlog from 2012, the commission has 48 investigations at hand. He said the commission would continue to operate with even-handedness and all citizens should “work with us to arrest the deterioration we see on so many sides.”
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