Roseau, Dominica – July 21, 2008……… Attorney General, Hon. Francine Baron-Royer, has challenged the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Earl Williams, to point out clearly “what is the conflict of interest” with respect to the Prime Minister’s nominee of a former Secretary to the Cabinet to serve as Chairman of the Integrity Commission.
The Integrity in Public Office ACT No 6 of 2003 provides for the establishment of an Integrity Commission.
In his 2008/2009 Budget Address, Prime Minister, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit announced Government’s desire to have the Integrity Commission in place and operational by September 1, 2008, subject to the appointments of seven persons by the President to that body.
In her contribution to the debate on the 2008/2009 Budget, the Attorney General flatly rejected the statement by Hon. Earl Williams that the nominee for the position as chairman of the commission, who retired from the Public Service in 2003, cannot serve as Chairman because of a “conflict of interest“.
“What is the conflict of interest that the Honourable Leader of the Opposition speaks to? Madam Speaker the fact that in 2003 the nominee was a civil servant in no way disqualifies him from being appointed as Chairman of the Commission.”
Hon. Baron-Royer then quoted a section of the Integrity in Public Office ACT to prove her point.
“A person shall not be qualified to be appointed as a member of the commission if that person has at any time during three years immediately preceding the date of appointment been a public officer. I repeat Madam Speaker, three years preceding the date of appointment.
“Unless I am not able to count properly, if the nominee left the civil service in 2003, five years ago, and is to be appointed in September, 2008, where does the conflict arise? Now the Honourable member of the La Plaine constituency is asking me when the Act was passed…. The Act says three years immediately preceding the date of appointment of the individual. The conflict of interest, Madam Speaker, does not exist; it is a fundamental or deliberate misunderstanding of what the law is.”
The Attorney General also asked whether the Opposition really wanted the Integrity in Public Office ACT to come into effect.
“What is the strategy of the Opposition? Does the Opposition intend to frustrate the appointment of persons to the commission so they can say, come September, 2008, you see I told you the Prime Minister was faking you. Is that is their strategy, Madam Speaker?”
With the Integrity Commission set to become fully operational by September 1, 2008, the Attorney General challenged members of the Opposition who have accused the Government of corruption to come forward and present their case to the Commission.
“The opportunity has come now for the Opposition to put their money where their mouth is. They say they have evidence of corruption, well come September, they will have the opportunity to prove to this country that there is corruption. And I wish to let the members of the Opposition know that the IPO provides that persons who make false or malicious allegations will be penalised and subject to be fined. And I hope, Madam Speaker that this time no one will be calling on members of the public to help pay those fines.”
The Integrity Commission will comprise seven persons. The Chairman will be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. Two persons will appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister and two persons will be appointed by the President on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition.
A chartered or certified accountant will be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Institute of Chartered Accountants or like body. An attorney-at-law will be appointed by the President on the advice of the Bar Association.
In her contribution to the budget debate, Hon. Francine Baron-Royer also gave notice to the Leader of the Opposition, Attorney -At-Law, Hon. Earl Williams, of her Government’s intention to bring into law the Legal Profession Act.
“And Madam Speaker as we speak on integrity and accountability, I want to inform the Honourable Leader of the Opposition that he can rest assured that the Legal Profession ACT is coming. We expect to receive the comments from the Dominica Bar Association on the bill very soon and we should be in a position to table the Legal Profession bill before this Parliament later this year.
“Soon Madam Speaker those in the profession who take clients funds and cannot account for them will be subject to the full force of the law. Those who are corrupt will be weeded out so that the good name of the profession can be maintained.”