13 Jul 2008

Open season for tiefing, graft, cronyism

GOVERNMENT is moving to amend the Integrity in Public Life Act to exclude chairmen and directors of state boards as well as members of the judiciary from the category of persons required to file declarations with the Integrity Commission.

It means that controversial figures such as Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT) boss Calder Hart and man-of-many-hats Ken Julien who have been the subject of repeated exposes in the Parliament and the media would escape the scrutiny of the Integrity Commission, the accountability watchdog, if the legislation were to be passed.

However Government, in explaining the move, has indicated repeatedly that it has had tremendous difficulty in finding suitable persons to serve on boards because many persons are reluctant to file declarations with the Integrity Commission.

Last year, Government faced a spate of resignations from several boards, which included Julien, chartered accountant William Lucie-Smith and National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) chairman David Brash. The common complaint, government spokesmen said, was that people were not prepared to disclose private and confidential information about their financial affairs, and to subject themselves to the particularly invasive and nit-picking nature of the questioning of the Integrity Commission, for a pittance.

Last year Attorney General Brigitte Annisette George had referred to a judgment of Judge Judith Jones which, she stated, had the effect of requiring all members of non-profit civic organisations, such as the Maha Sabha, to file declarations with the Integrity Commission. Annisette George had indicated that Government intended to amend the legislation to address this.

However, Maharaj noted yesterday, that the package distributed on Friday goes way beyond this. "If the Government only wanted to address that issue (of the non-profit organisations), they could have simply amended the measure to state that the Act does not include such organisations. But they have come with this fundamental amendment (removing State directors)," he said.

And once again, we see the PNM using its majority in Parliament to ride roughshod over commonsense and the corruption checks. It is indeed an open invitation for those who are corrupt to become more corrupted, and those not yet tainted to become so.

Let me see if the judiciary, the Law Association (and Dana Seetahal) will protest against this very wrong move. Hell, if Patrick Jagessar gave in to temptation (and I have long suspected Shermie), who is to say that anyone in the judiciary has lily-white hands? Not to mention the blackened hands of Calder Hart and Ken Julien.

I can't wait to see the tiefing, the corruption and grafts, the cronyism get into a frenzy like hogs at a feeding trough.