first_imgOpposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is open to making the Integrity Commission a constitutional body.Opposition Leader Bharrat JagdeoOver the past months, the Commission has complained that the unavailability of resources, particularly financial, has hampered its ability to carry out its mandate effectively.In fact, Chairman Kumar Duraisami has previously contended that it was time that the Commission be given financial independence by making it a constitutional body. This was after the Commission had requested supplementary funding from the Finance Ministry, but was denied same.Integrity Commission office in CampbellvillePreviously, when asked about granting constitutional status to the Integrity Commission, both Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader Khemraj Ramjattan and Director General Joseph Harmon explained that any such move would have to be made until after the coalition Government comes out of its current interim status.But Jagdeo, at his press conference last week, posited that making the Commission a constitutional body did not solve the important issue of Government compliance.“We’re open to any idea that will strengthen the Integrity Commission; however, this is just to get a nice-sounding word or phrase to avoid scrutiny of the real issue and the real issue is their non-compliance with the Integrity Commission … What you have to do is submit your declarations to the Integrity Commission. Submit it, let’s start with that. File your declarations. They’re not doing that and they wanna make it a constitutional body,” he asserted.Duraisami had recently disclosed that despite a two-month extension to the June 30 deadline, less than half of the declaration forms that were sent out were filled out and returned. He noted that some 1137 forms were distributed, but only 396 were received after the August 31 deadline.Among the defaulters were a majority of the Members of Parliament from both the Government and Opposition.Back in May, the Commission had flagged some 716 public officials for failing to make their declarations including President David Granger and some members of his Cabinet.In fact, at a press conference last month, AFC executives Ramjattan and Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes admitted to not filing their declarations even after the extended deadline had long passed.Minister Hughes told reporters on September 20 that she had only received the necessary documentation the day before and was going to file it later in the day while Ramjattan said he was yet to submit declarations for 2019, but would have done so up to the end of 2018.According to the Integrity Commission Act, all public officers in high office are required to file declarations of their assets as well as those held by their spouses and children. The law states that any public officer who fails to comply with the Commission is liable upon summary conviction, to a fine of $25,000 and imprisonment for a period of not less than six months or more than one year.Meanwhile, in its latest Article IV Consultation in Guyana, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has encouraged local authorities to make asset declarations to the Integrity Commission public. It noted too that while the re-establishment of the Integrity Commission has reinvigorated compliance, it should develop the methodology for verification.The Commission’s Chairman had previously lamented that efforts to hire investigators to verify declarations filed as well as Attorneys to prosecute defaulters were hindered by its financial woes.However, Jagdeo told reporters last week that while he was open to elevating the constitutional status of the Commission, he believes that the IMF ‘is just talks’.According to the Opposition Leader, during a previous interaction with the IMF team, led by Arnold McIntyre, he had spoken about Government’s non-compliance with the Commission and his Party’s efforts to have declarations made public but none of this was reflected in its report.The Opposition had tabled a motion in the National Assembly, but the coalition voted against the public knowing what each parliamentarian owned/owns as part of safeguarding the assets that belong to current Government Ministers.“Why is [McIntyre] calling now for it to be made public. I supported this. I pointed out to him the motion that we had in Parliament to make public our declarations for the past 10 years. He knows all about this. Mr McIntyre is talking all the time and then they do a cover-up report to the Board of the IMF,” Jagdeo said.“None of the issues we talked about: the massive corruption that haemorrhages public revenue and also where you have massive corruption in public expenditure. They didn’t put in the report about the lack of accountability, the violation of the procurement laws, the Integrity Commission – a whole range of things we spoke about and none of that gets reflected in the report. It’s a waste of time for us to meet with them,” Jagdeo contended.last_img read more