PM gives end-of-week timeline to answer additional IC questions

Minister Andrew Holness says he expects to answer, by the end of this week, additional questions from the Integrity Commission that have delayed certification of his statutory declarations for 2021 and

Holness gave the timeline at a post-Cabinet news conference Wednesday morning after being asked to comment on the matter that has seen him taking consistent flak over the past few months from critics, including the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP).

“I, too, am concerned that they have not yet certified them. They have written to me, asking various questions. I have provided answers and they have written to me again and I am in the process of providing those answers,” Holness said.

“You will, however, appreciate that it does take some time — and particularly for me — to get two or three days to go through matters and provide answers. I simply have to be very frugal with my time, and I suspect the same for the Integrity Commission that has to go through several thousands of declarations, but I would expect that they would give some priority to my declarations,” he said.

“I hope to be able to respond to them before the end of this week, so I’m hopeful that they would do their work and provide the nation with the necessary certification,” he added.

The PNP and several groups have been hammering Holness over the delay in the certification of his income and assets after the Integrity Commission had, last October, said it was not in a position to certify the declarations.

In May this year Holness told journalists at a news briefing that he was unclear as to why the commission has not published his statutory declarations.

On Sunday this week, Opposition Leader Mark Golding scolded the media for not giving enough attention to the matter.

“We have a prime minister who, for two years now, his integrity filing, his declarations, his assets and income cannot be certified, two years in a row. I don’t hear The Gleaner saying anything about it, I don’t hear the Observer saying anything about it; why is that? It is a serious issue,” Golding told PNP supporters at a party meeting at St Elizabeth Technical High School.

“It is not a good look, as our international partners can’t be happy with it, and investors can’t be happy with it either. We need a prime minister who everybody has confidence in because their filings are up to date and have been certified,” Golding said.

At Wednesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, Holness said he has tried not to comment on the issue because he’s in an invidious position, given that he has to protect and defend the country’s laws and institutions.

“So my silence should not be interpreted as not wanting to address it, but I do have another role… So I am hopeful that in short order this matter will be resolved,” he said.

He also said that it was routine that the Integrity Commission would write to people over and over again and there would be several individuals whose statutory declarations are not certified because they are in a continuous process of answering questions and trying to make determinations.

“My situation, obviously, would be public, and therefore it would cause some concerns. So I accept and acknowledge that, but it would not have been the first time that the Integrity Commission would have taken a long time to resolve my matter,” he said, adding that he was sure that, given his office, the commission would want to be very detailed in what they do.