OPPOSITION Leader, Philip J. Pierre, is calling on the government to put on its front burner the re-instatement of the Integrity Commission whose last term in office expired in March last year.
Pierre said he is compliant and that he last filed documents with the Commission in 2015. Since the Commission’s term expired over a year ago, he said he has not been called on to file any documents after that since the Commission no longer exists.
Meanwhile, there has been no word from government on a timeframe for the re-establishment of the five-member Commission, which is recognized under the Integrity in Public Life Act (No. 6 of 2004), which is in accordance with Section 118 of the St. Lucia Constitution Order 1978.
Pierre admits that he has neither been informed nor consulted by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet on the matter as must be done since the Commission is appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister after due consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.
The Commission, over the years, has had a difficult time getting declarations filed by people in public life as described by the First Schedule of the Act.
It is there to receive, examine and retain all declarations filed with it; make such enquiries as it considers necessary in order to verify or determine the accuracy of the declarations; receive and investigate complaints regarding non-compliance with or breach of the Act and perform such other functions it is required by the Act to perform.
The Commission, however, does not have any legal teeth and has had to resort to several ingenuous ways to get public figures to file their declarations. At one time, it went as far as submitting the names of defaulters to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for immediate legal action to be taken against them.
The need for declarations by people in public life to be filed with the Integrity Commission is to discourage corruption and other abuses in public life.
A person in public life, such as members of the Senate and House of Assembly, Ministers of Government, Parliamentary Secretaries, Chief Technical Officers in government Ministries and Heads of Departments, Speaker of the House of Assembly, President of the Senate, Secretary to the Cabinet, Attorney General, Director of Audit, Commissioner of Police, Heads of Diplomatic Missions and others with certain positions within the public service, shall declare their income, meaning yearly income as well as that of his or her spouse, for the year under review.
The income to be given is that which is defined under the Income Tax Act No. 1 of 1989 and includes all benefits direct or indirect and acquired in or out of St. Lucia.
People in public life, as described by the Integrity Commission Act, must also declare their assets such as all property, including money beneficially held in St. Lucia or elsewhere by the declarant, his or her spouse, and all rights or benefits enjoyed on a continuing basis.
They must also declare their liabilities as well, even those held or incurred by any other person as the agent or on behalf of the declarant or his or her spouse. The same applies to income and assets.
According to the Integrity Commission Handbook of 2005, a person in public life shall as soon as possible after the expiration of each calendar year, but within one month after the end of the calendar year, file in respect of the financial year immediately preceding the declaration required under the Integrity in Public Life Act.
The declaration shall also be filed within three months of one’s appointment or election to office.