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
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.
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