As the Integrity Commission tries to step up efforts to shed public criticism that it is “weak”, the anti-corruption body is lobbying legislators to make it a criminal offence for persons to hinder it from carrying out its functions.
Additionally, the commission has recommended that legislators make it illegal for persons to refrain from complying with its requests for information, or make a false statement to the commission.
The recommendations were made last week during a special parliamentary meeting of the Integrity Commission Oversight Committee, which is tasked with reviewing the agency’s functions.
Kevon Stephenson, the Director of Investigation at the Integrity Commission, disclosed that while there is a provision in the Integrity Commission Act to deal with persons who fail to provide information, it is considered to be too “onerous”.
In elaborating, Stephenson said he would have to summon persons who fail to provide information, to attend a commission of enquiry.
“… That is a very extreme provision that does not govern the day-to -ay practices of requesting information, and I think it would probably be a little bit excessive to engage Section 48 (of the Integrity Commission Act) every time you request information from an entity and they fail to provide it,” he asserted.
“Then you would have to summon them to the commission with the information, have a hearing, and if they fail, then, of course, you could charge (them) under Section 11 of the Commission of Enquiry Act,” he added.
Stephenson said the recommendations that have been made to the committee would strengthen, among other things, the Integrity Commission’s fight against corruption.
“If public bodies fail to supply the information to the commission in terms of when contracts are awarded, then, of course, the commission cannot monitor these public contracts, and so, we would fall into problems,” he indicated.
He stated that, “under the Contactor General Act, it was an offence” to fail to provide information relative to contracts.
Continuing, he said: “Presently, we have a compliance rate of about 97 per cent, but if people believe they do not submit the information to the commission and nothing will happen, then perhaps we could have a fallout from that high level of compliance.”