‘Toxic culture’

his maiden presentation to the Senate, Abka Fitz-Henley on Friday added his voice to those that have been scathingly critical of the Integrity Commission (IC), calling for an investigation into what he deemed
a “toxic culture” within the organisation.

He waded carefully into the controversial topic of the commission, telling his fellow senators that he recognises the need for the body, and its ideals must be supported. However, he soon made it clear that, in his view — one similar to that frequently expressed by his fellow members of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) — some of its “key agents appear to be falling short”.

After rehashing the way the IC handled its report on Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Fitz-Henley then launched his broadside.

“I was told that there are people within the commission who the furthest extent of their training is the civil law, but they are seeking to cajole others who have extensive expertise in the criminal law to take action against senior members of this side, despite no evidence suggesting any culpability,” he argued as he laid the groundwork for his salvo.

“In fact, I’m told that when the view by those with the criminal law expertise is articulated — a view that potential issues submitted do not even reach the standard of an administrative breach — the heckling continues as attempts are being made by some key agents in the commission to unjustly have actions taken against this side. I’m told people in the commission have been brought to tears by snide remarks made by others merely because they are seeking to do their jobs fairly.”

He added, “I invite the Parliament to investigate this what I am told is a toxic culture that has developed within the body. I make that call today, Sir and I do not do so lightly. I do it based on credible information and I will not resile from the call.”

Fitz-Henley’s call comes on the heels of Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ urgings, on Tuesday, for a halt to what has been almost weekly criticism of the IC within the Parliament. The prime minister’s comments came after Robert Montague (JLP, St Mary Western), for the second sitting in a row, chided the commission for its failure to reverse its ruling that during his tenure as national security minister, he acted improperly in the award of gun licences to men of “questionable character”. Montague’s ire was stoked by the commission’s reversal of a similar ruling against the People’s National Party’s Peter Bunting.

During his presentation on Friday, Fitz-Henley also called for an amendment to the laws that govern the IC to “bar former politically exposed people from being appointed to any office” within the body.

“It is not right that a senior officer within the commission was not too long ago a former advisor to a prominent politician on the Opposition side. I am not casting aspersions on anyone but that sort of arrangement has a pungent odour emanating therefrom and the arrangement is not sustainable,” he said.

According to Fitz-Henley, the call came from his concern that the IC is not trusted by “many important stakeholders including a significant portion of the Jamaican people”.