The Government of Belize reactivated the Integrity Commission and today, seven of its members were sworn-in inside the National Assembly Building in Belmopan.
“I, Lisbeth Delgado having been appointed as a member of the Integrity Commission pursuant to Section 3 of the Prevention of Corruption Act no 21 of 2007 do solemnly and sincerely and firm declare that I shall deal with all documents and information and all other documents and all other matters relating to declarations furnished to the Integrity Commission under the said act as secret and confidential and shall not at any time disclose or make known to any person any such information or document saved as otherwise provided or allowed by law so help me God.”
Chairman of the Integrity Commission is Marilyn Williams who says that she is prepared to carry out her duties thoroughly. Also on the commission is Wilmot Simmons who echoed Williams’ sentiments.
“I intend to go as far as the law will allow us. I mean we cannot go beyond that however my policy and my practice has always been to do all that is necessary and as is ordered or prescribed under the act and so that is what we will do.”
“Are you prepared to hold persons in public life accountable and are you basically prepared to call out whatever red flags you may come across.”
“Well that’s what it’s all about. That’s the reason why I accepted. I will do the job to the best of my ability and I will call out any red flags that pops up. No two ways about that.”
Senator for Government Business, Godwin Hulse spoke to Love News saying that while he has no issue in filing his declaration to the commission, he is of the firm belief that there needs to be some revamping of the Act.
“Well I have no difficulty personally in filing my assets and my liabilities. I’ve absolutely nothing to hide but I do think that the Integrity Commission, the whole of that piece of legislation needs some revamping because there are persons, Senators for example, especially Senators who are not Ministers have no activity whatsoever relative to governments funds, government revenue or government expenditure but they are required to file. Persons who have direct responsibilities and activities, the Comptroller of Customs, the Director of Immigration, the people who work GST etcetera are not required to file and other public officers are not required to file. Under the convention which recently passed in the Senate, I think it should be expanded and I hope it is, that everybody in public life should file so people could see what you started with, where you are and declare what you have. But we have to look at what this is about . This is about ensuring that the public purse is protected and that people don’t dip into it, dabble into it, or make deals that disenfranchise the people of Belize. That is the biggest picture. And as far as I am concerned, the legislation is narrow and it doesn’t seek to capture that. A good example and we’ve heard it time and time again, if you started in government and that is your only income and you had assets a,b and c and you add your salary to that and you don’t have any other external sources of income how come you end up with assets that are d, e, and f. That is really what it is intended to see. How you came about that, what did you do? Did anybody bribe you? Did you take kickbacks for contracts? Did you siphoned off some of government’s money which is difficult to do. That part is difficult to do because Smartstream and other secure measures are in place to ensure that especially ministers don’t sign anything, senators don’t sign anything. As a Minister I have never signed a voucher yet and I don’t have the authority to sign but I think it intends to see whether in fact there are kickbacks that you’ve taken and how is it that your assets have grown. I think when the Belizean people look at the publications they have to look at people’s liabilities because they have a tendency to say well, oh he get that, he get that, he get that but you have to look at the liability too because he may be owing the bank, the credit union etc. etc. and so we have to have a balance approach to this but yes the Integrity Commission is now sworn in, it should be active and people should file.”
“Could you clarify one thing for me though, in speaking with Marilyn Williams she said every public person will be required to file and when I asked her to simplify or expand who is a public person she said that it includes not only elected officials but public officers as well, people in the public service.”
“That’s not what the law says as far as I know. The law says people in parliament; the House of Representatives, the Senate, mayors and town councils. It doesn’t talk about other public officials.”
As it relates to the schedule of meetings, Williams explained.
“I am going to have a brief meeting with the commission at this point because you know we’ve got to decide the way forward in terms of scheduling because everyone has other business to carry on so we will determine what day and what time is convenient to everyone to make sure that is not burdensome on anyone in particular.”
The other members of the Integrity Commission include Claudette Grinage, Melissa Balderamos Mahler, Lisbeth Delgado, Nestor Vasquez and Armead Gabourel. Both Balderamos-Mahler and Gabourel had served on the last active Integrity Commission up to 2008.