Head of the Integrity Commission, Anande Trotman-Joseph has commended the local media and in particular THE NEW TODAY newspaper for bringing to the forefront allegations of corruption and wrongdoing at the state-owned Marketing National and Importing Board (MNIB).
Trotman-Joseph made the statement at a press conference held last week Wednesday to explain the position taken by the Integrity Commission to take charge of the investigation into the MNIB rather than allow for the public inquiry that was promised by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
She said it was the information that came out in the public domain from THE NEW TODAY that prompted the Commission to start the MNIB probe with effect from August 2.
She admitted that while the mandate of the Integrity Commission gives the body flexibility to legally pursue matters involving public officials or state-run bodies from a source they deem relevant, the information, which prompted the MNIB inquiry was only drawn to their attention after it appeared in the local media.
THE NEW TODAY brought the MNIB into public focus when it carried a report in June that attempts were being made to make former Board Chairman, Samuel Andrew the scapegoat for alleged misuse of funds at the state body.
The article brought a sharp response from Andrew who laid the blame squarely at the feet of former Chief Executive Officer, Ruel Edwards whom he accused of hiding the true state of the MNIB finances for over two years from the Board of Directors.
This newspaper also unearthed information that under Edward’s management the Marketing Board had raked up over $300, 000.00 in first class air travel mainly by the CEO and one other person, and was constantly defaulting on payments of close to EC$1 million owed to a company in Miami for sugar.
Edwards also admitted to this newspaper that he purchased a vehicle from MNIB in what appears to be insider trading.
The former CEO of the Marketing Board was removed from his position and landed another high-paying job within the Ministry of Finance, which is headed by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who is also the line minister for MNIB.
Speaking on why the commission decided to undertake a private investigation into the affairs at MNIB rather than the public investigation as alluded to by Prime Minister Mitchell, the female head of the body said that because the commission investigates all types of corruption, when the red flag was raised, in the MNIB’s case they had no choice but to launch their own probe.
Commission members told reporters that they are operating pursuant to Section 13 of the Integrity in Public Life Act of 2013 and the Prevention of Corruption Act No. 15 of 2007, which authorises them to investigate any public body wherein lies information that suggests wrongdoing.
“No disrespect meant to Prime Minister Mitchell,” Trotman-Joseph said, adding, “however, we did at some point have to let him know that irrespective of anything that the government is going to do, we have our duty and we are duty-bound by law.”
She also gave assurances that the end result of the investigation will not be a private report.
“I just want you to know we are following a process…the outcome will be public, (but) the method, we have to be guided by our legislation…so the inquiry would be private but we will share the report, she said.
“We following our legal time post – we intend to pursue and find what is required…and that outcome we assure you we will share with the nation that report which will say what we have found and even what we can’t find and what we have not found,” she added.
According to Commissioner Robert Robinson, who is also Chairman of the Technical Panel instructed to go deeper into the MNIB investigation, the findings would remain confidential until such time as it reaches the stage when it is necessary to be made public.
There is no set timeline for the completion of the Integrity Commission’s inquiry into the MNIB operations.