CHARLESTOWN, Nevis -- A new law to establish an Integrity Commission that would ensure integrity in public life; obtain declarations of assets, liabilities, income and interest in relation to property of persons in public life; give effect to the provisions of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and for related matters was passed unanimously in the Nevis Island Assembly, at a sitting at its Hamilton House Chambers on September 11, 2013.
Premier of Nevis and Minister of Finance in the Nevis Island Administration Vance Amory making his presentation at a sitting of the Nevis island Assembly on September 11, 2013
Premier and minister of finance in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) Vance Amory, who tabled the bill, explained that the ordinance should be seen in context by what was meant by public life and that the House and the people of Nevis would look at what was expected of those who chose to serve the public in any public capacity.
“Whether we are serving as politicians, as public servants, normally called civil servants or holding any office in a public corporation. This bill seeks to establish clear rules and guidelines to govern the manner in which such persons will conduct the business of the people and how they will be perceived in the performance of those duties.
“We expect also, Mr President, that this Bill when it comes into force, will be used to evaluate the performance of these duties and will provide a system which will act as a ‘watchdog’ to protect the integrity of the public service and to seek to prevent abuse of the public office. It is also intended to prevent those who seek public office from engaging in unethical practices which are inimical to the public and to ensure that the principles of transparency and good governance which could remove and will remove the temptation of such persons from any attempt to engage in actions or activities which are against the good of the people,” he said.
Amory added, that the object of the bill was to let all and sundry in public life recognise that the NIA was serious about the manner in which all public servants conducted themselves in the performance of their duties and the Bill would set the standard by which they would be expected to conduct themselves.
According to the ordinance, the Commission will consist of a chairperson, a retired judge or an attorney-at-law with many years experience appointed by the deputy governor general and two other persons appointed by the deputy governor general after consultation with the premier and the leader of the opposition.
One member will be appointed on the recommendation of the premier and another on the recommendation of the leader of the opposition.
The ordinance stated that persons appointed to the Commission shall be persons of high integrity, capable of exercising competence, diligence, sound judgment and impartiality in fulfilling their duties in keeping with the terms of reference of the ordinance.
However, persons would not qualify to be appointed as a member of the Commission, if they were in public life of were otherwise exercising a public function; had at anytime during the three years preceding the date of appointment been a public servant; during the five years immediately preceding the date of appointment, held office in a political party or would otherwise be disqualified in accordance with the constitution to be a member of the Nevis Island Assembly.
Members of the Commission would be appointed by instrument in writing; would be expected to hold office for a period not exceeding five years and be eligible for reappointment.
Regarding removal from the Commission, the ordinance states that any member shall be removed from office by the deputy governor general, if the question of his or her removal from office had been referred to a disciplinary tribunal appointed under the ordinance and the tribunal recommended to the deputy governor general that he or she ought to be removed for inability or unwillingness to discharge the functions of his or her office for misconduct.
Notwithstanding, a member other than the chairperson may at any time resign his or her office by giving one month’s notice in writing addressed to the deputy governor general and transmitted through the chairperson. The chairperson of the Commission would be also subjected to the same guidelines if he or she wished to vacate the position.
According to the ordinance, the Commission is expected to receive, examine and retain all declarations filed as required by the ordinance; make such inquiries it considers necessary in order to verify or determine the accuracy of any declarations in keeping with the ordinance; without prejudice to the provisions of any enactment, conduct an investigation into any allegation of bribery or act of corruption as stipulated by the ordinance and perform such other functions as may be required as outlined by the provisions of the ordinance.
The Commission will have the powers, rights and privileges of the High Court as a trial in respect of enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation or otherwise; compelling the production of documents and the issue of a commission or request to a witness abroad.
Also, the Commission in the exercise of its functions, under the ordinance, would not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority.
Similar legislation passed earlier this week by the Federal Parliament of St Kitts and Nevis has been hailed by Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas, who said it “goes to the heart of accountability and transparency in government.”
“Persons will be actively engaged at all times in ensuring that there is integrity within their public lives as public servants, thus impacting positively on good governance in St Kitts and Nevis,” the prime minister explained.
“The persons will have to open themselves up to the public given the circumstances when it becomes necessary,” said Senator Richard Skerritt.
His colleague, Senator Nigel Carty, said that it was not easy for the Cabinet to bring the Integrity of Public Life Bill to the Parliament given the scope of the document. He added that he considers the Bill a “work in progress” as there are areas to be improved in terms of the people included and defined areas of conduct.