Today, March 31 does not only indicate the end of the Government’s financial year but it is also the deadline for elected officials to disclose their financial statements as is stipulated in the Prevention of Corruption Act. These financial statements are to be handed in to the Integrity Commission which up to now has been non-existent. Love News attempted to get an interview with the Prime Minister on this issue but that proved unsuccessful. We did, however, speak to Senator for Government Business, Godwin Hulse on the issue.
“It applies to everybody who is in public life, the act is specific , people of the National Assembly and a few other people but let me just comment. First of all there is no integrity commission because we cannot fill a certain space. It was required to fill a space of a personal member from the Chartered Association of Accountants and the nominees that we had contacted had declined for reasons that they will be considered politically exposed persons and all those pieces of legislation apply to them and many people don’t want to go there. The second things is that I think the act really needs to be redone to truly highlight what it is that we are trying to capture. There are many persons that are not captured and you will recall some time ago many years ago the solicitor general at the time Mr. Kaseke was sited and clearly under scrutiny. It was determined that those persons were not required to file; the controller of customs and several people who have access to large sums of money. You have to understand that Ministers, myself I never sign a thing for government ever there is not a payment I sign there is a whole system of accounts, finance officers etc. I have no problem at all in giving the Amandala or anybody a list of my assets I have never had that problem at all and where they left me, really my wife would say where I was before I joined the government I am less now because the businesses we ran have fallen behind because I have been focusing exclusively on government business so I don’t have that problem at all. Whenever the integrity commission is appointed I will file but what I am not going to do is you can’t file to an entity that doesn’t exist. So you have to have the entity first and that is where we are.”
While Senator Hulse says he, as a public person, would have no problem declaring his assets, he believes that changes ought to be made to the Prevention of Corruption Act.
“It’s my understanding that several persons have been asked, I have not been involved in that aspect but I know that several persons have been asked and they declined. What I am saying is that maybe the time has come to look at the whole piece of legislation and decide what we are trying to do because also I can tell you that in the old days when i had looked at some of the fillings I don’t know what the integrity commission looked at and granted that there is a lot hearsay all over the place but when you look at a person’s assets you also have to look at the other side of the balance sheet which is the liabilities because a lot of people might be bordering bankruptcy and people don’t even know, people might have huge loans to fund the things they have, you can’t only look at the assets because that would be the so called visible weath thing. You have to look at the other side of the balance sheet as well and I think a proper analysis by the Integrity Commission would do that and not be burdening people with filling things that can be twisted. Other point I wanted to make is that where your children and family is concerned and this is an issue I have with the politically exposed persons really your children when they are grown adults with their own children are your responsibility and affect you no man why should they be subject to tall that kind of scrutiny. Those are some of the things that are imposed on us that we have to be careful of. If you really think about it if your daughter is 40 or your son is that age and has his own business why is it that you in the politics as a representative or minister be responsible for their assets and all the other rest of things.”
“Is that a requirement by the current act as it stands?”
“It’s a requirement that in fact that persons who are politically exposed, all those persons assets and all their dealings are commingled and those are some of the things we have to look at in detail.”
Prime Minister Dean Barrow had begun works on putting together the Integrity Commission but had reached a road block when persons approached had declined to sit on the commission. Since then there have been no reports of progress on the matter.