By Arthur Kallick
Grenada now has a brand new Integrity Commission headed by retired High Court Judge Monica Joseph. The emergence of this mechanism within the governance structures of the state speaks to the heightened presence of integrity issues within the polity.
Arthur Kallick was born in Trinidad and lived in Grenada until he moved to Canada in the late 1980s after completing secondary school. He has a Master’s in family counselling and child physiology from the University of Toronto. He is now a freelance writer and has been living in Grenada for the past six years, and at present works with Caribbean Family Planning unit as a counsellor
The country’s former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has been an avid campaigner for integrity in public life. A string of allegations were levelled against Dr Keith Mitchell during his tenure in office 1995-2008.The” Resteiner Affair” is once such event where Dr Mitchell went to the private residence to collect, what some persons allege, US$15,000 from one Eric Resteiner, who is now a convicted felon in a US jail.
This revelation sparked a hot debate in the country and generated huge pressure against the NNP administration at the time. In order to arrest the situation, Sir Daniel Williams, the then Governor General, appointed Sir Richard Cheltenham to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the ‘Resteiner Affair”. The main opposition National Democratic Congress led the way in condemning Dr Mitchell’s conduct.
The whole debate culminated in the passage of legislation that set the legal basis for the appointment of an Integrity Commission in 2007. Dr Mitchell was the prime minister at the time. The NDC administration post 2008 did appoint a chairperson but did not set up the necessary institutional framework.
The legislation was amended in 2013, which saw an increase in the number of appointees to the Commission from five to seven persons. The legislation identifies some 30 categories of persons who are required to file a “Declaration of Assets “with the Commission. It further states that all public officers earning over EC$2,000 per month are required to file declarations with the Commission. Persons who are required to file declarations with the Commission can be fined EC$60,000 or spend two years behind bars if they fail to do so.
The names of the members of the Commission were announced recently. Mrs Amanda Trotman-Joseph and Mrs Daniela Williams-Mitchell, two local attorneys are among the appointees. Mrs Trotman-Joseph is the wife of the President of the Senate, Senator Lawrence Joseph. Mrs Williams-Mitchell on the other hand is a partner in the law firm that was established by her father, former Governor General Sir Daniel Williams. She is also a member of the board of directors of the National Lotteries Authority.
In the case of Mrs Trotman-Joseph, as a member of the Commission, she will have to review the declaration of her spouse. Mrs Williams-Mitchell will be required to treat with the declarations of the chairman and deputy chairman of a statutory board on which she sits as an ordinary member. The governor general may be required to relieve these ladies of this uncomfortable situation of conflict of interest. To make matters worse, a close relative of the prime minister has been appointed as the chief executive for the Commission.
The wooden horse is certainly well positioned in the city’s square. What happens next is anybody’s guess.