‘Rude & repugnant’

MINISTER of Justice Delroy Chuck has launched a broadside against the Integrity Commission in response to a statement it released on Tuesday in which it chided members of the Andrew Holness Administration for failing to sign a leadership code of conduct which it has prepared.

Addressing a post-Cabinet media briefing at Jamaica House on Wednesday, a visibly upset Chuck did not hold back his punches as he waded into a developing war of words between the commission and the Administration.

“I am extremely concerned about the statement that was issued by the Integrity Commission yesterday [Tuesday]. I find the statement to be rude, repugnant and offensive,” declared Chuck.

“I think the Integrity Commission is going beyond what its jurisdiction is. It is an anti-corruption agency but it is now making itself to be an oversight body for good governance, for accountability [and] that’s the auditor general’s jurisdiction,” added Chuck.

The justice minister seemed particularly incensed by the commission’s claim in its release that, “A failure on the part of any Jamaica political leader, or representative, to formally commit to the code, for whatever reason, will also signal to Jamaicans, the type of leadership and accountability that they should not expect from him/her”.

The commission also pointed out the Opposition Leader Mark Golding and 10 members of his shadow Cabinet has already signed the code.

According to Chuck, he has always conducted himself in line with his beliefs and, “Signing any code of conduct won’t help me to live better”.

He argued that the members of the commission need to be reminded of their core mandate and charged that a parliamentary committee now reviewing the Integrity Commission Act will present proposals to achieve this goal.

“We want the Integrity Commission to expose corruption in this country. Those who are engaged in corruption must be identified, apprehended and charged. That is why the Government last year gave the Integrity Commission in excess of $1.2 billion, and this year in excess of $1.3 billion has been provided to the Integrity Commission,” said Chuck.

“Yesterday, with that release, it certainly brings into focus whether it [the Integrity Commission] is acting in the interest of exposing corruption and ensuring that the Jamaican people get value for the money being spent on it,” added Chuck.

He charged that the commission has demonstrated to Jamaicans that there are no doubts it can be trusted in the reports that it sends out.

Earlier in the post-Cabinet briefing minister with responsibility for information Robert Morgan pointed to sections of the release from the commission, including his name and title, which he said were incorrect.

While repeating his claim that he has not seen the commission’s code of conduct and was never part of any training it administered, Morgan told the media briefing that he can assure the people of Jamaica that he is dedicated to upholding the principles and adhering to the existing codes and frameworks that govern the conduct of parliamentarians.

“I am committed to serving with transparency, accountability, and the utmost integrity, working towards the betterment of Jamaica and its people,” said Morgan as he pointed to various laws and regulations, such as the Financial Administration and Audit Act, which aims to ensure responsible and transparent use of public funds, as well as effective governance practices

“While I understand the importance of the Integrity Commission and its role in promoting accountability, I believe it is necessary to offer constructive criticism and identify areas for improvement. It cannot be that parliamentarians are being attacked by the commission for doing their job of reviewing the law and making suggestions,” said Morgan.

He charged that the tone and wording of the commission’s release may come across as confrontational or defensive.

“This could inadvertently undermine public confidence in the commission’s ability to carry out its duties impartially.

“Furthermore, there have been instances where the commission’s actions have been called into question, such as the incident with the prime minister, raising concerns about its effectiveness,” said Morgan as he added that there is a need for clarity and transparency in the commission’s processes.

“The public deserves a clear understanding of how the commission operates, the criteria it uses in conducting investigations, and the decisions it makes. Improved communication and transparency can help to build trust and demonstrate the commission’s commitment to accountability,” said Morgan.

According to the de facto information minister, the commission must ensure that its actions and investigations are perceived as fair and unbiased.

“Any hint of political favouritism or selective targeting can erode public trust and undermine the integrity of its work. It is crucial that the commission is seen as acting in the best interests of the country rather than being influenced by external pressures or other motivations.

“Constructive criticism is vital for any institution to grow and improve. I believe that by addressing these concerns, the Integrity Commission can enhance its effectiveness, restore public confidence, and fulfil its mandate to promote integrity, governance, and accountability in Jamaica,” added Morgan.