How to identify red flag alerts in asset declarations.
That was the main focus of a two-day training workshop on auditing asset declarations, facilitated by the Office of the Integrity Commission in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) held last week at the Coyaba Beach Resort.
The training workshop brought together compliance officers from Grenada and Belize, as well as officials from the Audit Department, Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), with the ultimate goal to enhance the capacity of these officers to identify illicit enrichment, conflict of interest, and bring an end to corruption.
According to workshop facilitator, Vienna-based Tim Steele, a Senior Advisor (Anti- Corruption) in the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch, Division for Treaty Affairs at the International Centre in Austria, there are “many” red flags that officers need to be aware of in tackling the problem.
“The very first one is simply, someone has got more money than you would expect them to have (for example, if) a guy or a lady started as a public officer 2 years ago with a bicycle and has now got a Mercedes or a yacht, that’s an obvious red flag,” he explained later in an interview with THE NEW TODAY.
He went on: “…If they are not spending money, you can see their salary going into their accounts but they never spend it. Where is that money to live on coming from?”
Steele stated that a person’s lifestyles, current bank accounts, and travelling allowances are among the other things that might raise a red flag.
However, he noted that “just because someone is rich doesn’t mean that they have done something wrong”.
“There may be a legitimate source but it is very important to look and make sure that you check for legitimate sources before accusing anyone”, he said.
“So, it is not as easy as looking out and saying ah, this lady lives in a big house or this guy has a big car – you have to really check quite carefully, where the asset came from, where the incomes come from and how this happens”, he added.
When questioned about the role that the Integrity Commission should play in terms of public apprehension and conflict of interest against someone in public life, Steele expressed the view that “because people think someone is bad it doesn’t mean they are bad.”
While pointing out that he is not privy to the full mandate of Grenada’s Integrity Commission, Steele said that “when it comes to the role they should play if they are hearing rumours (that) they (the integrity commission) should obviously be vigilant around the information that person gives”.
“In terms of asset declaration, they (Integrity Commission) need to be independent,” he said, adding that they may have other responsibilities but I haven’t examined their full mandate”.
The two-day training session was also facilitated by rule of law expert, Virginia de Abajo Marqués, the regional anti-corruption advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime based in Panama.
Marqués noted that since Grenada acceded to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in April 2015, the island is politically obligated to adhere to the universal standards enshrined therein.
According to head of the local Integrity Commission, Lady Anande Trotman-Joseph, a total of 1500 Grenadians is required by law to file declarations in keeping with the Integrity in Public Life Act of 2013.
Lady Trotman-Joseph said that to date a total of 587 persons have filed declarations, while 705 are on notification and 118 persons have not yet declared.
She disclosed that the Commission is currently awaiting the result of one court matter in which a judicial officer challenged his right not to file a declaration.
Speculation is rife that the officer is a prominent Magistrate.
At the end of the two-day training session, participants would have started on a journey towards being able to zero in on which asset declarations they should be focusing on and how to systematically analyse and run through processes to enable them to identify whether the assets and income obtained is legitimate or not.