The Integrity Commission Act3374 14 Jun, 2012
Dr. Persaud: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the motion moved by the Hon. Leader of the House and Prime Minister, Mr. Samuel Hinds. Having just come from the altar of entertainment, just previously listening to the Hon. Member Mrs. Backer, and listening to her passionate and convincing message of the Opposition’s willingness to file their declaration makes my task very easy. All I was coming after the Prime Minister to do, and I hope that I am as convincing as he was and even more so, was to convince you and to convince us to do that. So, it makes my job very easy.
Integrity is defined as adherence to moral and ethical principles, soundness of moral character, and in one word, honesty. Today, we as Parliamentarians sit in the most august Assembly in this land with the confidence reposed in us by the electorate. Guyanese of all walks of life, from the length and breadth of this country. We have the responsibility to ensure that every transaction and everything we do in this House is done with transparency and accountability. The Integrity Commission Law was given priority by the PPP/Civic Government early upon its entry into the National Assembly.
The extant Integrity Commission Act was passed in this House and made into law in 1997, requiring all persons who hold public office or public life to declare their assets, or make financial declaration to the Integrity Commission. The Integrity Commission was established by Act No. 20 of 1997 and passed on the 24th September of the same year.
Yes, it is true that Commissioners are appointed by the President in consultation with the minority leader. I have no doubt, since the current Commission… [Mr. Bond: Majority] If you want to call it that but each party stands on its own. It is without doubt that the Commission and the Commissioners are appointed in consultation with the minority leader. That has been so in the past.
Mr. Speaker: Dr. Persaud, the official designation is Leader of the Opposition.
Dr. Persaud: The Leader of the Opposition, my apologies, Mr. Speaker. It is so that the last Commission was appointed and it is so that that Commission has come to an end in May as was said, rightly so. I am sure that much is being done to appoint the new Commission. I am very happy to hear from the Hon. Member that once that new Commission is appointed in accordance with the law, that everyone one of us will file, and that is good to hear.
In fact, when the Commission was appointed at its inception in 1997, there was no other person than Bishop Randolph George, an eminent personage, who headed that Commission. I think, having had someone with that personality and character, it is no doubt that a suitable person will be found to fill the chairmanship of the new Commission.
The Bill provides for the President, all Members of Parliament, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Civil Servants, and servants to file entries of income from whatever source. In fact, the Bill brings people from various categories under the legislation and makes it mandatory for annual declarations to be filed on or before the 30th of June. That is the law. There were a number of amendments that were brought by the Hon. Member Mrs. Backer. I would just like to correct one thing. When she quoted from section 19, I would like to say that the Hon. Member, and it follows on, she is honourable and I am sure she knows that I think so, where a person who is required to do so, fails to file a declaration in accordance with this Act, or to furnish particulars under section 18, the Commission or the President, as the case may be, shall publish the fact in the Gazette or the daily newspaper. So, the President can.
Failure to file returns can lead to prosecution and severe penalties. In fact we can talk about imprisonment or fines. The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), as the initiator of this legislation, has not kept quiet, but is vocal and is still vocal to have its provision of the law honoured. When the Government cannot claim to have detailed information on those who may have violated this Act, the Government has intermittently called on all, and I am saying all on both sides of the House. I am not here to cast aspersions on anyone. Yes, Hon. Member Mr. Bond, I will never do that. Anyone who may have violated this Act, the Government intermittently calls on all who have an obligation to comply to have their declaration submitted to the Integrity Commission.
The motion presented today by the Hon. Prime Minister to leave the House in particular emphasises to Members of Parliament the necessity to uphold this law, which stands as a benchmark in the fabric of transparency we so onusly clamour for. It reminds us of the mantle of responsibility we personally assume as parliamentarians and by extension our duty to maintain the veracity of this Parliament and future Sittings in no uncertain terms. I believe this.
The PPP/Civic would like to congratulate all of those persons on both sides of the House who filed their declarations as required and wishes to appeal strongly to all those who have not complied to do so as soon as you can or immediately. By resolving to have annual voluntary monitoring, disclosure of the names of defaulters by the President to the Speaker, and taking the step of sanctions of those defaulters through the Committee of Privileges, we would boldly and fearlessly announce our intention to lead by walking the walk of honour and as we like to say, integrity by action, not by mere words.
In the pursuit of a policy of integrity this Parliament has to have the highest record of integrity and work tirelessly to have all of Guyana walk that road. We must now set the highest example of filling our own declarations to influence every Guyanese to do the same thing, to walk that road in this very great land of ours.
The integrity Commission is one component of Government which helps in the pursuit of honesty and transparency in the administration. This motion tells of this Government’s commitment and resolve to have this Act fully enforced and implemented. I wish to support the Government’s effort and appeal to Guyanese citizens, in particular every Member of Parliament who sits in this National Assembly and who are bound by the relevant laws to submit their annual income from every source with the concomitant declaration on any other item based on statute. I repeat, Members of Parliament are honoured bound to traverse the road of ethics and morals which we subscribe to as enshrined in our Prayer and also in Schedule 2 of the Integrity Act, under the code of conduct.
I was perusing the amendments and I took umbrage to the second amendment where there was a sweeping statement or a clause speaking of corruption. One can say all he/she wants, but to cast aspersion, to malign people in this wide-swept way I think many more of us should take umbrage. I am not corrupt. I have never been and I do not plan to be. So, I take umbrage to this.
I also want to remind the Hon. Member that when amending a motion, that should be an expansion of a thought that is already there. This is a new thought that you have introduced. I exhort you therefore, my colleagues and my fellow Members of Parliament in this National Assembly, that you must not only support the Prime Minister’s effort today, but we , all of us who sit here, must continue to send the clarion call to the citizens of this country who are obliged to honour the Integrity Commission Act. We can do so with a clear conscience if we ourselves uphold the law of which we play an integral role in crafting. We must not be afraid to subject ourselves to the same scrutiny which we demand day after day in this Parliament vociferously of others.
I give the assurance that those of us on this side of the House will unhesitatingly submit our returns and declarations withstand scrutiny as required and submit ourselves to the parameters outlined in this motion.
I would like to leave you with a quote by Alan Simpson. The quote is: “If you have integrity nothing else matters. If you do not have integrity nothing else matters.” I hope you can understand that. Thank you very much. [Applause]
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