Persons, who willfully do not disclose conflicts of interest could face jail time, if the Integrity Commission, one of Jamaica’s anti-corruption agency, has its way.
The commission has submitted a report to parliament in which it is recommending to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Justice that the body of local anti-corruption legislation be expanded to include the criminalisation of acts and/or omissions, which constitute the willful and/or negligent non-disclosure of a conflict of interest.
The commission further recommends “that this legislation be applicable to public servants operating at all levels of government, as well as elected and appointed public officials. This recommendation is made against the background of the significant adverse impact of conflicts of interest, which has the capacity to undermine legitimate decision-making, compromise the development and application of policy, distort the rule of law and affect the allocation of public resources, thereby encouraging corruption.”
It comes in the wake of two investigative reports submitted to parliament this week by the Commission on the outcome of its investigations into allegations of conflict of interest involving newly-appointed Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Zavia Mayne at the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ) and a manager at the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ).
Recommendations were made to public servants, Heads of Entity and other accountable officers regarding the implementation and enforcement of policies regarding the identification, treatment and management of conflicts of interest within the public sector.
According to the commission, “it is recommended that public servants take all necessary steps to avoid the creation of actual or potential conflicts involving their duties and functions as public officers and their private interests and affiliations. Where the possibility exists that a conflict may arise, it is recommended that public servants disclose and document the full nature and extent of such conflicts, in accordance with the relevant public entity’s internal conflict of interest policy and/or the Government of Jamaica Staff Orders for the Public Service.”
The body has also made recommendations to Heads of Entities and accountable officers, where they must “ensure that policies regarding the identification, management and resolution of conflicts of interest are implemented and robustly enforced, along with other transparency and accountability mechanisms. It is the responsibility of an accountable officer to contribute to the maintenance of public trust in the activities and operations of public bodies.”
Two recent cases
In its investigative report tabled in parliament earlier this week on the conflict of interest probe involving Greg Douglas, a manager of the BSJ, the Commission highlighted that the inclusion of similar provisions in the now repealed Regulations 36 and 40 of the Contractor General Act Public Sector Procurement Regulations, 2008.
Also earlier this week, the commission tabled another investigation report, which called out two former board members of the FCJ, including newly-appointed State Minister Zavia Mayne, for conflict of interest.
This is in relation to allegations of impropriety, irregularities and conflict of interest regarding the purchase of 200 acres of land at Caymanas Estate by the FCJ from the Urban Corporation of Jamaica in June 2011, in which Mayne though his attorney, contested the commission’s findings.