Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Dr. Keith Mitchell has lashed out at persons whom he branded as having their “mouth on the ground” and “tabayish”.
He made the comment at a sitting of Parliament last week as government attempts to bring into law the Integrity in Public Life Bill, 2013.
The existing Bill was repealed in the House of Representatives and a new draft Bill was tabled by Leader of Government Business, Gregory Bowen during the sitting of the House of Representatives last week Friday.
The Act to establish an Integrity Commission in order to ensure integrity in public life, to obtain declaration of the assets, liabilities, income and interest in relation to property of persons in public life was approved in the lower house last week.
Dr. Mitchell slammed the former Tillman Thomas-led National Democratic Congress ((NDC) administration for failing in its four-and-a-half years in office to bring the legislation into effect.
“Those who were quick to condemn and say all sorts of unfortunate, dirty things and falsehoods against innocent people and were promising the nation to operate a government of integrity, transparency, accountability, good governance were afraid to bring the Integrity in Public Life Act into force and to make sure that they implemented it”, he said.
“…I can’t believe that a bunch of lawyers sitting in government failed to have known that the Act … (was) before them to implement was not promulgated.
I can’t see it, it must be a deliberate oversight not to have seen this…”, he added.
According to Dr. Mitchell, the former government clearly failed “to assure the public that those of us in public life (are) not attempting to benefit in a way that would send the wrong message to the country as a whole.”
The Prime Minister addressed the critical question of persons selected to serve on the Commission including the post of Secretary.
“My view is, this person as Secretary has to be a person whose mouth is not on the ground, so to speak. This person must not be a person that is a tabey person. It must not be a person who wants something today and it’s in the street tomorrow. It must not be a person who likes to mind other people’s business”, he said
‘It must be a person with all the other characteristics but also can clearly demonstrate, they’re someone who can be trusted with confidential information,” he added.
Speculation is rife that Prime Minister Mitchell’s remarks were directed at a civil servant who under the former government was acting as Secretary to the commission.
This particular individual was identified to be the wife of a former top official of the ousted Congress administration.
Well-placed sources told this newspaper that one of the first acts of Mitchell’s governing New National Party (NNP) regime was to remove the persons from the commission.
During the sitting of Parliament, Prime Minister Mitchell also took serious issue with the former NDC administration for alleged shady dealings and made specific reference to the sale of 85 acres of lands in July 2012 to the University of the West Indies (UWI) to facilitate a Campus in Hope, St Andrew.
Documents to formalise the arrangement was presented by then Prime Minister Thomas to Vice Chancellor of UWI, Professor E. Nigel Harris during a ceremony at a press conference earlier this year.
Dr. Mitchell charged that while the former rulers were speaking about transparency and accountability and good governance, the transaction, which took place with the regional university and the NDC administration was nothing short of callousness.
“They (government members) sat there and know a project was coming through, that the government has to buy some land, they sit in the Cabinet, Mr. Speaker, these are nice, honest, accountable, decent people, they sit in the Cabinet and proceed knowing what the Cabinet has to do, to run ahead as a group and buy the land and sell it back to the government, for millions of dollars (in) profit”, he told Parliament.
“ … Imagine that Mr. Speaker they sat in the Cabinet knowing Cabinet must buy the land for the University of the West Indies to build a Campus, they ran ahead formed a Corporation … behave like Bear Anansi …and sold it back to government at an inflated price, and expect us to proceed with it …”, he said.
According to Prime Minister Mitchell, this is the kind of “callousness, corrupt behaviour pattern that this is meant to stop” with the passage of the Integrity in Public Life legislation.
When the New Today investigated the claims of Dr Mitchell about the purchase of the lands in Hope, they proved to be false.
One of the property owners said that they purchased the lands in question over 20 years ago since under The National Party (TNP) administration of former Prime Minister, the late Ben Jones.
She said that the university itself had looked at two other sites in the country and eventually settled on Hope for the location of the campus.
Another person who worked with the Congress government from 2008 until its downfall in the February general elections, said the current Prime Minister should ask some of the expelled NDC ministers who are now associated with them for information about how Hope was selected to accommodate the UWI campus.
The Integrity in Public Life Bill, 2013, is expected to be debated at the next sitting of the Senate.