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Pursuing Integrity in Public Life - May 30, 2005

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Pursuing Integrity in Public Life


These days there is much talk, considerable talk about integrity and corruption, Politicians, as usual, are the prime targets. “St. Lucia is in a cesspit of corruption”, Mr. Stephenson King announces from the platform of the United Workers Party during its recent outing on the Boulevard.

Statements like these should neither go unnoticed nor unchallenged. Unlike the situation of the Government of which he was part, Mr. King has avenues to report, test and pursue his allegations. But more of that, later.


There was a time when politicians were untouchable and even seemed invincible, invoking the fear of anyone who dared question their behaviour as it pertained to the administration of government and the management of the financial resources of the state. There was a time too when there was no obligation for ministers and public officers to declare gifts which they obtained privately, or on overseas trips. Ask the politicians who were active prior to 1997 what they did with the many gifts which they received privately or on their overseas trips? Where are these gifts today?


Now, all of this has changed. Ever since the enactment of integrity legislation, provisions have been put in place to ensure checks on the assets and liabilities of politicians, senior public servants and persons managing statutory corporations.

The Integrity in Public Life Act, No.6 of 2004, calls for the appointment of an independent Commission which will, among other things,

(a) Receive, examine and retain all declarations filed with it under the Act;

(b) Make such enquiries as it considers necessary in order to verify or determine the accuracy of the declaration filed under the Act;

(c) Receive and investigate complaints regarding non-compliance with or breach of the Act.

The Act specifically states that “In the performance of its functions, the Commission is not subject to the control or direction of any person or authority”.

The Commission is appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister who shall consult with the Leader of the Opposition before providing this advice. At present, the Commission is chaired by Archdeacon Randolph Evelyn of the Anglican Church. Members of the Commission include a seasoned journalist, a former banker and Castries businessman, an accountant and a lawyer, all the skills required under the Integrity Commission Act.

The filing of submissions is not simply a ritual of completing forms to be sent to a clerk in the Civil Service for filing. The members, by reason of their expertise, are in the position to collectively assess these submissions to ensure their accuracy and compliance with the provisions of the Act.

So, under the Act, ministers and public officials are required to disclose their income, how much they owe and to whom, their investments if any, their properties and even the life insurances that they carry.


The Integrity in Public Life Act, No. 6 of 2004, also has several new provisions, one of them being the inclusion of behaviour defined as “corruption”. This legislation was enacted by this Government in 2004. Let us look at some examples of corrupt behaviour.

A person in public life commits an act of corruption if:

   (a) He or she solicits or accepts, whether directly or indirectly, any article or money or other benefit, being a gift, favour, promise or advantage for himself or herself or another person for doing any act or omitting to do any act in the performance of his or her official functions or causing any other person to do so or omit to do anything;

(b) He or she in the performance of his or her public functions does any act or omits to do any act for the purpose of obtaining any illicit benefit for himself or herself or any other person;

(c) He or she fraudulently uses or conceals any property or other benefit derived from any such act or omission to act under paragraph (a) or (b);

(d) He or she offers or grants, directly or indirectly, to a public servant any article, money or other benefit being a gift, favour, promise or advantage to the public servant or another person, for doing any act or omitting to do any act in the performance of the public servant’s public functions;

There are several other provisions in the Act which speak to the issue of corruption. These include improper use of Government property for the benefit of an individual, the use of official influence to support any scheme or contract in which the individual has an interest.

The penalties are severe. Any person found guilty of an act of corruption can face penalties of up to one hundred thousand dollars or fifteen years imprisonment. In extreme cases the individual can be fined and confined.

There are many who believe that the Act is aimed solely at politicians. That is not so. The provisions which define corruption are also aimed at citizens, companies and others who attempt to bribe decision makers in Government to obtain decisions in their favour.


The current Commission has approached its tasks with the highest level of professionalism and diligence, and has met regularly since its establishment in 1998. Unfortunately, like most of the successful agencies in the Public Service, their work goes unnoticed, largely due to the absence of a tradition of aggressive public relations. But this is about to change.

The Commission has finally embarked on a public awareness campaign to explain its work and the various provisions of the Integrity in Public Life Act. I was particularly pleased to watch and listen to an interview on NTN on the work of the Commission. At that interview, two members explained the role, work and the challenges faced by the Commission. Indeed, I have long urged the Commission to hold workshops for politicians and public officers to explain the provisions of the Act. Such a workshop would also allow declarants to ask questions about provisions of the Act which cause them concern.


There appears to be a high level of compliance by parliamentarians, government ministers and public servants to the provisions of the Act. This does not appear to be the case with the heads of public corporations and statutory boards. In its recent information to the public via the media, members of the Commission thought this situation was unsatisfactory and a greater effort should be made by these individuals to improve on the level of compliance.


Like many other laws in this country, the success of implementation and enforcement relies on the active participation of members of the public. I want to urge all members of the public to play their part in ensuring that the Integrity Commission is effective. The Act allows members of the public to report acts of corruption. Section 32 of the Act states as follows:

(1) Any person who has reasonable grounds to believe that a person in public life —

(a) is in breach of a provision of this Act;

(b) Has committed an act of corruption,

may make a complaint in writing to the Commission.

(2) The complaint shall state —

(a) the particulars of the breach or act of corruption;

(b) The particulars, as far as they are known, of the person against whom the complaint is made;

(c) The nature of the evidence that the complainant proposes to produce in respect of the complaint.

These provisions are available to anyone and that includes Mr. Stephenson King. If Mr. King says that St. Lucia is “a cesspit of corruption”, then he should, in accordance with this section, provide the Commission with the particulars of the corrupt acts.

While the Commission encourages public participation, it does not give a license to members of the public to engage in frivolous and vexatious submissions, on which there is little shred of evidence. All information is treated in confidence. Reckless and inflammatory statements can cause irreparable damage to the reputation of people and their families.

Public scrutiny is a continuous thing, but we all must understand our role is not to embarrass public officials but to monitor their behaviour to ensure that it is consistent with the principles of integrity. All public officials are entitled to due process under the law and to seek appropriate remedies if they are wronged.


There are, of course, those who say that the Annual Declaration of Income and Liabilities is too high a price to pay for Public Service. It is equally a high price to pay when accusations are hurled, without evidence or any basis whatsoever. If they fear disclosure of their private financial affairs, then they should not enter into the public arena. Aspiring politicians cannot say they have not been warned.

Consistent with that view, I believe that all persons who are candidates should be made to declare to the Commission their assets and liabilities on the same day that they are nominated for General Elections. In this way, we would get a clearer indication of what the politicians come with, and what, if any, they have acquired during their tenure. I intend to pursue this, by ensuring appropriate changes to our Election Law in due course.


Ultimately, integrity is about upholding the principles of right and wrong in our behaviour and that of the people around us. It is about accountability. It is about honesty. It is too about good governance.

All Saint Lucians should remain vigilant, not only to point out acts which constitute breaches of integrity in the Public Service and among parliamentarians but in all areas of public life and in national organizations involved in business, sport and various aspects of community development.

Until next week, take care and God Bless!


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