UPDATED: Barbados Government Says Integrity, Freedom Of Information and Defamation Laws In A Year Or So – Or Maybe Two Years

Almost a year after it was promised, the Thompson Government says they will have “final drafts” of ITAL legislation by the end of this year. As to when the draft legislation will become law… oh… maybe a year or two down the road.

In the meantime, Thompson’s DLP Government members and officials will be free to award government contracts to companies in which they have an interest. They will also be free to accept “gifts” from suppliers and others who are awarded government contracts.

Same old, same old for another couple of years even if Thompson is to be believed this time. (As opposed to the election where he said he would adopt a Ministerial Code immediately upon forming a government.)

Prime Minister Thompson and his government could declare immediately that government contracts will not be awarded to any company in which a government official or their spouse has an interest. The DLP Government could order that this very afternoon.

But they won’t… because they intend to take full advantage of the two year “feed at the trough” period before the integrity legislation becomes law.

So while we are encouraged by the process that is outlined in the Barbados Advocate today, we’ll not break out the champagne just yet. All this work that is just now starting should and could have been done by David Thompson and the DLP two years ago.

There is also the matter of just what the legislation will say and whether the politicians will really adopt meaningful laws or window dressing designed to placate the public but do no harm to feeding at the trough.

Some will say we are too negative, too hard on a government that promised to adopt a Ministerial Code almost six months ago and then failed to do so. Some will say that we are too hard on a government that cut and pasted integrity proposals from the internet a few weeks before the election.

All we can say is… we’ll see what happens.

A promise is a comfort to a fool… and we’ve been fooled enough, thank you.

Here is the full article from the Barbados Advocate. We reprint it in its entirety because the Advocate routinely destroys its articles and keeps no archives for some strange reason. You can look at the original for a few weeks here.

NEW GOVERNANCE LAWS COMING

By Shawn Cumberbatch

GOVERNMENT should have the outline of new laws governing integrity, freedom of information, and defamation, by August and final drafts by year-end.

This means the island should have Freedom of Information, Defamation and Integrity Legislation on the books by the first quarter of next year if not sooner, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Senator Maxine McClean said yesterday.

The Minister, along with Senator Orlando Marville, chairman of the new Governance Advisory Board which is dealing with the laws in question and other governance issues, gave an update on its work during a news conference at Government Headquarters, Bay Street, St. Michael. Also present were other members of the board Permanent Secretary, Special Assignments Prime Ministers Office Captain Randolph Straughn; former Central Bank of Barbados Governor Calvin Springer; attorney-at-law Monique Taitt; Development Specialist Shantal Munro-Knight, and Dean of the St. Michaels Cathedral Rev. Frank Marshall. Another member, Professor Eudine Barriteau of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus was absent.

As soon as we have drafts and as soon as they have been ventilated with key stakeholders, it would go to Parliament. As soon as we can get that, and beginning next year for sure, it should be there, if not before. I think that there are pieces of it, which among the priorities will be top priorities, and we would want to get that to Parliament so that we can have it enforced, McClean told reporters.

The issues that we have put on the table certainly … would indicate that for Barbadians and certainly for the government it is a critical area. We think it is important for the functioning of every government and it is therefore a priority. As a priority, however, we want to ensure that we do all that is necessary to put on the table a range of legislation that can deliver what we are seeking to deliver, she added.

Marville said the immediate focus of the body was getting the three pieces of legislation mentioned ready by the end of the year. It has hired noted lawyer Professor Albert Fiadjoe, who has worked on similar initiations in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Belize, to help draft legislation.

The chairman said in order to get as wide input as possible, three town hall meetings will be held in addition to meetings with the media, the social partners, and other specific stakeholders in August.

We are also hoping to have the work online. We are doing this as openly and transparently as possible, largely because this is supposed to be an act in the interest of transparency, he said.

Marville said once the first three pieces of legislation were out of the way, the body intended to work on other initiatives, including looking at a constitutional amendment dealing with the power of the Prime Minister, possibly at a Contractor General, and also revisiting the role of the Ombudsman.

He anticipated considerable public participation during the discussions in August, and said that while the public expected all the things mentioned to have been done by now as you can appreciate, drafting is not the job of a board like this one, it is looking at the issues and trying to put some sort of sense together on what we would present to the Cabinet.

We therefore have engaged the services of a legal services advisor Professor Albert Fiadjoe, who is arguably the best public lawyer in Barbados if not in the region, he said.

UPDATED: Story from Caribbean Net News…

Reprinted from Caribbean Net News
caribbeannetnews.com

Governance advisory board set up in Barbados
Published on Wednesday, June 25, 2008

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS): A Governance Advisory Board has been established by the Barbados Cabinet to deal with a number of issues, including Freedom of Information, Defamation and Integrity draft Bills.

This is according to Chairman of the Board, Senator Orlando Marville, who was speaking at a press conference at Government Headquarters on Tuesday.

The other members of the Board are: The Very Rev. Dean Dr Frank Marshall; the Permanent Secretary (Special Assignments) Prime Minister’s Office; Captain Randolph Straughan; Calvin Springer; Shantal Munroe-Knight; Professor Eudine Barriteau and attorney-at-law Monique Taitt.

According to Marville, the Board would also be looking at a constitutional amendment related to the tenure and power of the Prime Minister; and examining the role of the Ombudsman and a proposed Contractor General.

He noted that Legal Services Advisor, Professor Albert Fiadjoe, had been retained to draft the legislation, and the aforementioned Bills should be ready by year end.

The Chairman explained that the promised Freedom of Information Act would make it possible for “all citizens and other people of particular interest to access most information … because we are trying to exclude only specific matters, like national security, and also possibly some forms of personal information might be held in that way.

The idea is to free up information, so that you have a much wider source and you have greater transparency on government’s handling of information. The process is meant to be handled through the Barbados Government Information Service and there should be a Commissioner of Information who will make a determination where there are grey areas on what is allowable and what is not. We are hoping that most is allowable,” Senator Marville stated.

With respect to the Defamation Act, he pointed out that the current legislation did not allow for persons to freely express an opinion. “If you voice an opinion and it cannot be proved to be fact, it doesn’t mean that you have done any malice to the person about whom you are talking, and I think we want to have something in that Act where malice has to be established,” he stressed.

Addressing the issue of Integrity Legislation, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Senator Maxine McClean, who was present at the press briefing, pointed out that its critical aspects would relate to ministers of government and senior public servants demonstrating integrity.

“That would be facilitated by declaration of assets, for example, because in terms of decision making, a critical area would be the ability of those persons to demonstrate that they have not through their office, acquired assets illegally, etc.

That certainly is an area of critical interest to the public and we would want to demonstrate that there is proper compliance and observation of proper procedures in carrying out their duties,” she said.

McClean also stressed that they would have to look at persons outside of the public service, “because in any effort to compromise integrity there will be multiple parties involved and therefore we also have to look at the issue of parties to any kind of corruption”.

The Governance Advisory Board intends to have as much input as possible into all of its processes. As a result, when Cabinet has signed off on the draft legislation, town hall meetings, specific meetings with the press, the social partners and other specific stakeholders will be convened.

Copyright© 2007 Caribbean Net News at http://www.caribbeannetnews.com All Rights Reserved
Licence is granted for free print and distribution.

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27 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Corruption, Crime & Law, Ethics, Political Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption

27 responses to “UPDATED: Barbados Government Says Integrity, Freedom Of Information and Defamation Laws In A Year Or So – Or Maybe Two Years

  1. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Barbados: New laws

  2. Fool me once

    So Thompy finally admits he not now never gonna make the politicians stick to the non-existent code he promised.

    By the end of the year, maybe gonna have a draft for talk talk talk till it stalled to death by all the crooks. So now he leave a year or two open for the thievin to go on.

    Thompy you been around long enough to know only way to do this is just pass the law you already showed us in election time. Otherwise it don’t happen.

  3. Tony Hall

    Discussion is healthy but you guys are too negative

    ************

    BFP says,

    1/ Who paid for the PM’s first bizjet trip to New York and who owned the jet? Transparency means just that. So far Thompson’s transparency with the bizjet has been limited to his supporters telling us to STFU.

    2/ Under the ITAL proposals as laid out in the Barbados Advocate, Thompson’s people will still have another year or even two years to award government contracts to companies in which they have an interest. Thompson promised a Ministerial Code would be adopted last January but did not do so.

    He could, however, immediately declare that no contracts were to be awarded to companies in which any government official has an interest.

    The DLP and Thompson could do that this very afternoon.

    But no… they want another year or two at the trough.

  4. Thistle

    I’m truly heartened by the news pertaining to ITAL. I always felt that it would happen eventually, but I won’t break out the champaign until it is a fait accompli.

  5. crossroads

    Liked the article. However your cartoon banner is distasteful, surely there other ways to get over your point.

  6. Hants

    BFP can you list the important issues this DLP Government has dealt with since taking office?

    Other than ITAL and exposing alleged corruption by the previous BLP Government, what do you think are the critical issues affecting Barbados at this time that you would like your Government to address ?

    *************************

    BFP says,

    Hi Hants,

    Now, what do you mean by “address” and “dealt with” ???

    Some folks think that “dealt with” means “to talk about”. In that case, the DLP government has “dealt with” hundreds of issues.

    If “dealt with” means “to implement effective solutions and policies, to monitor them for results and to sustain this effort long term to achieve realistic and beneficial goals for the country”… then the DLP government has not “dealt with” a single issue that we can think of.

    As to ITAL, we view this as the most important issue this country faces because it is the foundation that brings quality to everything else we do. The lack of ITAL directly impacts and damages the economy. It corrupts the private sector in many ways and saps energy and effectiveness from everything we do.

    For the next two years or so, the DLP government and government officials will operate in the same free-for-all environment that was so carefully created and preserved by the corrupt BLP government.

    Without rules, only saints can avoid falling to temptation.

    And we don’t see many “saints” ’bout hey!

  7. 198.1

    BFP, I am still waiting on your analysis of the Prevebtion of Corruption Act.

  8. Hants

    Just heard a new word on Toronto Television. Staycation.

    A staycation is a “stay at home vacation” which is going to be more competition for the Barbados Tourist industry.

  9. Hants

    BFP your comments on the SSA strike please?
    Can’t rely on mainstream media.

    ****************

    BFP says,

    Hi Hants,

    Interesting situation. The person in the center of it is so far giving a defense of “What… you think I sold out for a thousand dollars?”, but he doesn’t say what the two cheques were for, does he?

    Why should a SSA person be accepting cheques from a supplier?

    But the government has a little problem prosecuting him. You see, it is not against any law for the SSA guy to take a gift from the supplier or even payment for work done!

    It is only against the old corruption law if it can be proven that the exchange was to influence or cause the SSA person to do or not do a specific thing. That is the weakness of the old law and why the politicians don’t want it changed!

    Without a confession (as if!) or a receipt that practically says “I accept this money in exchange for awarding you this government contract” the DPP doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

    Even though everybody know that if a supplier gives a gift or a “loan” to a government official it is corrupt!

    That is why we have been working so hard to force ITAL.

    Unless there is something not yet told about the SSA man… the government will have a difficult time charging him…

    …even though it is obvious to everyone that if a government official takes money from a supplier then it is a corrupt act.

    That’s my opinion… what’s yours?

  10. Hants

    BFP my take on this is that the Government did the right thing in handing the case to the public prosecutor.

    It is illegal for Government employees to take bribes.
    Shouldn’t matter whether it is “only $1000.

    Your demand for ITAL is still correct but give the PM a bit more time while he try to control the 747.

    ********************

    BFP says,

    Yes, bribes are illegal.

    Gifts are not.

    Connect the money as a condition for a contract and you have a charge. Can’t connect the money as a condition for a contract? No charge under the present law.

  11. Tell me Why

    Hants. How can it be a bribe when he was not responsible for the awarding of a/the contract? I can see that witch hunting is prevalent in these equation, especially something that happened nine years ago. By the way, was Mr Alleyne a part of the awarding of the contract? Why is the gentleman now speaking out after nine years? Are we going to see constant finger pointing and no economic direction for this country? Please, let’s hear some answers. But first, stop the talking and start doing the walking.

    ******************

    BFP says,

    Let’s look at it the other way. First of all, you see the problem in trying to prove a bribe.

    But that still doesn’t remove the question “Why did a supplier give or loan money to a government official?”

    Frankly we don’t even need the question answered. It was a corrupt act. Period.

  12. Straight talk

    Tell me why?

    You really need telling why?

    Let me give you a clue as to why the electorate are so pissed off with your party and their thinking which justifies such policies and shenanigans.

    I cannot ever condone a government department head ( acting or not) cashing cheques from a supplier into his personal bank account.

    Be it $100 or $1,000,000, it is corrupt.

    I am not an accountant, just a voter.

    Tell me why I’m wrong.

  13. Tell me Why

    I cannot ever condone a government department head ( acting or not) cashing cheques from a supplier into his personal bank account.
    ………………………………………………………………………………….
    First of all, answer the question. Was Mr Alleyne a manager, an acting manager or within the management structure during the award of this particular contract?

    ……….and please ST, I am dealing with issues as I see them. Nothing to do with Bees or Dees.

    *********************

    BFP says,

    SEE! Tell me Why is talking about LAW… and under the existing “anti-corruption” (should be called “encourage corruption”) law, it is all about connecting a payment to a contract. Without somebody proving that THE payment was linked to THE contract, there is no offense.

    Which is why the politicians have been able to rob us blind by giving government contracts to family and even themselves. “No offense in law” the crooked ones always say! “Prove the cheque was in exchange for a contract” the crooked ones always say!

    Corruption is destroying my country.

  14. Mea Culpa

    I hope the new Code/ITAL includes operators of blog sites and who finances them.

    Democracy can be subverted if a blog site operated by one man who has millions and wants, for example, to buy a beach house or some other benefit and who uses the blog site to attack the integrity of others when he does not have clean hands!

    What say you, Peter Allard et al?

    All I can say is that hypocrisy abounds!

    *********************

    BFP says,

    HUH? What nonsense you talkin about?

    Anyone can start a blog for FREE at WordPress.com in about 10 minutes. The learning curve is practically zero. Try it… then you won’t be so upset that your control of the Barbados news media no longer controls the flow of information to the public.

    You corrupt elite.

  15. Mea Culpa

    Moderation? I’m not surprised!!!

  16. Tell me Why

    SEE! Tell me Why is talking about LAW… and under the existing “anti-corruption” (should be called “encourage corruption” 😉 law, it is all about connecting a payment to a contract.
    ………………………………………………………………………………….
    Hi BFP. I am not trying to defend corruptible practices in this equation. But we must also be cognisant to the fact that Bribery can be use loosely based on the person using it and to whom he is using to. Nepotism is also used and bribery since a contract can be given to friend or family. But Nepotism can also be fair if the person receiving the contract has the ability to do the job. Nepotism in the awarding of contracts or jobs were in existence for years. Ever heard of a ‘Godfather” having a sure job for someone. Maybe that was the beginning of corruption or the modern day language “super cession” , and you know where nepotism gained is prominence – way back in the Middle Ages by the Catholics.

    BFP. Checkout guys who received a $2 here or a $10. there. Is that bribery?

    A sales person who bring in thousands of dollars and given a ‘commission’ is that bribery?

    NO BFP, those payments are called ‘GIFTS’. What say you my learned friends

  17. Straight talk

    Tell Me Why?

    I guess we all know now how low your moral standards are.

    Call the payments what you like, but paying money to a civil servant, whether minister, PS, manager or clerk, is defined the world over as corruption.

    Reading your excuse of a comment makes me realise what psychological obstacles we have to overcome before ITAL can be introduced.

  18. Tell Me Why

    I guess we all know now how low your moral standards are.
    …………………………………………………………………………………
    If you and others stop trying to degrade my posts and look at the issues confronting us we will all be better off. I have been consistent with the facts that Mr. Alleyne is innocent and it will be impossible to charge him for any bribery based on information provided.

    My article was far from being an excuse, it is enshrined with facts and the rule of law, so you can throw as many pot shots as you like. The action of firing the gentleman was flawed with mistakes and hearsay. It is as simple as that.

  19. TELL ME WHY

    I guess we all know
    …………………………………………………………………………………..
    S.T. I can say without contradiction that the “WE” in your statement shows that it is grouping of bloggers with fixed agendas who try to bull wink others just to concrete partisan positions. We should all be working together for the betterment of Barbados.

  20. Justice

    Bfp, you are overstating the case. It is not that difficult to prove the connection between a payment and a granted favour by a Minister, say. But who will prosecute? TMW, gifts are freely given, not in return for something. And if it is fair, it ain’t nepotism.

    **************

    BFP says,

    You are soooooo yesterday. Right from the 1950’s.

    The reason that modern ITAL exists is because people like you either just don’t get it… or you do get it, but don’t want the party to end.

  21. Straight talk

    OK Justice and TMW, if “gifts” are given freely, with nothing expected in return, why did the supposedly unfaired contractor send his encashed cheques to the Govt.

    Could it perhaps be to protest about the non-reciprocation of favours, or have you another explanation?

    If such was the case, and a gift was expected to gain a favour, who pays the ultimate price for that favour.

    The amount being pocketed will always be smaller than the benefit given, and in the case of government departments the difference comes out of our, the taxpayers’, pockets.

    Unless this whole corrupt system of gifts and favours is ended, the country cannot develop its full potential, as more efficient players are not given the chance of a level playing field.

  22. Pingback: Prime Minister David Thompson Grabs Centre Stage Delivering His First Budget « Barbados Underground - bringing the news to the people

  23. The FTC and information access

    Gaining access to basic consumer information seems to have more hurdles than one would expect.
    A few months ago I approached the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) and asked them for a copy of the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the consultants assessing the Price Cap. I also asked for the dates for their work.
    I wasn’t asking for what they were paying the consultants from taxpayer revenue to tell us some things we could determine for ourselves. I felt that as a taxpayer I was entitled to know what they were supposed to be doing so I could enhance any submission on the Price Cap, which affects the pockets of the most vulnerable in our society.
    It seemed quite reasonable. The response was that both items of information requested were “internal” and not available to the public.
    Well, in August I enquired about the number of people who have been waiting for basic telephone service and the date of the last report.
    Surprise! This is also not public information.
    Well, what is surprising is that we live in a world where all administrations, including the new Government, talk about transparency and good governance.
    But without access to basic information consumers cannot advocate on matters that affect their interests.
    So to deny consumers elementary information is tantamount to failing to perform a fundamental public responsibility, that of transparency in public office.

    Hallam Hope

  24. Bush tea

    Hallam,
    …are you trying to be facetious? Are you being funny?

    What information what?!?

    You of all people must know that information needed to make basic decisions seem to be state secrets in Barbados.

    Cud dear, If we cannot get simple information of how our children are performing in school – you expect that they will give you information about their sweetheart deals… oops… I mean consultancies?

    Wuh my man, If you could get this thing ‘work out’ I got a couple more areas I would like information too:

    like….

    School results !!!Which of our schools are best run and how do they rank in terms of success achieved, staff competence etc?

    What are the productivity levels of the various government departments that we pay for via taxes

    What is the current status of outstanding court cases…etc etc etc

    …..come to think of it, maybe the blogs should seek to fill this breech…hmmmm

    …What do you think BFP? If you publish your ‘best effort’ then maybe the authorities will feel obliged to put up the correct data.

  25. Pingback: Barbados Transparency The DLP Way… « Barbados Free Press

  26. Pingback: More Indications That Government Will Not Keep Promise To Hold Public Hearings On Integrity Legislation « Barbados Free Press

  27. Pingback: Barbados Government On Integrity Legislation: “Not until we’ve pigged out at the public trough for a few more years” « Barbados Free Press