The ongoing exchange between the AG, the Integrity Commission Chairman and its registrar shows the serious challenges facing our public institutions in respect of principles and effectiveness.Michael Williams makes the point that S38 of the IPLA only requires the commission to get the subject's views before completing its report into allegations. We are now seeing this Range Rover issue conflated by the media with the resignation of the 2009 Commission and the resignation of Dr St Cyr.
The natural justice principle is being tested to destruction in this rounds, the contention being that an accused person needs to be notified at the start of an investigation.One can scarcely imagine that lofty principle being extended to those accused of rape, murder or robbery. Utter nonsense is being presented to further undermine this important public institution. The people to be investigated by the commission are powerful officials accused of corruption, so no prior notice is necessary.
Worse yet, we have the commission's registrar apologising for not notifying the AG of said investigation, with the AG using that apology to demand the resignation of the commission's chairman. The Opposition Leader is reported to be backing the commission in this matter.
Blatant double standards in relation to white-collar crime are no new thing: just remember that one of the May 2009 proposals by then AG Brigid Annisette-George was to amend the IPLA by requiring complainants to give their names, addresses and a signed statement. That move was eventually withdrawn after being heavily condemned by the UNC (in opposition) and the wider public.
What concerns me is that the commission's registrar seems to accept that notifying accused people at the start of an investigation is proper practice. If that is really the Integrity Commission's approach to these serious matters, then it is no wonder that their impact on public sector corruption has been so very limited.This intentional cultivation of confusion is part of a long-term series of moves to dilute the effectiveness of the Integrity Commission.
No resignations are called for since the main shift needs to be towards a learning culture. We have to recognise ineffective approaches and make the necessary changes, if we are to have any chance of dealing with white-collar crime.The Integrity Commission needs to rise to this challenge. The Law Association needs to clarify how the natural justice principle applies in the investigation stage.