June 20 – 22, 2017, are the dates set for persons in public life to declare their assets to the Integrity Commission, which is preparing to accept the second round of declarations, since the process commenced in 2014.
This was disclosed by Head Compliance Officer at the Integrity Commission, Samorna Dowe-Mitchell, who made the revelation in a telephone interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper.
Speaking at a press conference, Dowe-Mitchell explained that the new declarations would be used to make a comparison with the first set that was already received.
“We need to develop a trend…it would be the same process but what we will be doing is going deeper into it by comparing the first declaration that a person would have declared to the second one,” she said.
She noted that “between 2014 and 2016,” the Commission received “a total of 436 declarations out of the 477 notices (to file declarations that were) sent out”.
“Some persons are waiting for new dates to file extensions, some persons are deceased so that would account for the lack of compliance.
“Although we did not have a 100% compliance rate, we are happy to say that 91% of persons have been compliant in the filing of their declarations to the Commission…
“…We have already went through all of them (the 436 declarations and) are preparing to receive another set of declarations in June.
According to Dowe-Mitchell, the declaration process “encourages a form of transparency” and serves as a “preventative anti-corruption tool that acts as a reminder to those who have to declare to act above board at all times.”
She went on to say: “After reviewing and assessing a declaration, compliance officers are required to identify red flags…So for example a person should not be spending more than they are earning, (noting that) “things like that would be a cause for concern.”
The female Head Compliance Officer also pointed out that “the Commission is not out to get anyone (or to) act like a bulldog,” but warned about the course of action that the Commission can take against persons who fail to declare their assets.
“If you fail to make your declaration, the Commission would send out another notice to file declarations, so you get that chance … to redeem yourself (and) you can file that declaration.
“If for some reasonable cause, you are unable to file that declaration within the timeframe given by the Commission then you can request an extension.”
However, Dowe-Mitchell stated that when a person “blatantly refuses to file declarations it is published in the (Government) Gazette and at least one weekly newspaper (and) if the person still decides that they would be non-compliant, then we can apply to the court for an ex-parte (order) to actually instruct that person to make their declaration.”
A sitting Magistrate has reportedly filed papers in court challenging the powers of the Integrity Commission to request him to make declaration of his assets before the body.
The receipt and examination of declarations is one of the core functions of the Commission, which was established pursuant to the Integrity in Public Life Act No. 24 of 2013.
This Act outlines 33 categories of persons in public life who are required to file declarations of their personal particulars, those of their spouses and children; particulars of the person’s income, assets and liabilities held and spouse and children, including income, assets and liabilities acquired, held or incurred by any other person or agent on his/her behalf; monies or other property held in trust for him/the persons; or held in Trust by him/her for another person.
Additionally, persons in public life are required to report any gifts or rewards accepted by the declarant, in the course of the performance of official functions, within 7 days of receipt.
They are also required to observe the Code of Conduct, which sets out the standards of behaviour, ethics and values that are expected of persons in public life.