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Jan 12, 2017

The Integrity Commission is sworn in, in Belmopan

Seven Belizeans were formally appointed to a body that has been under increasing scrutiny in the fight against corruption. The Integrity Commission, established under the 2007 Prevention of Corruption Act, is to examine, without fear or favour, the declared statements of assets and liabilities of persons in public life, primarily those who are elected. But it has been difficult to find members in the past few years to concerns of undue public exposure. The last time a commission was functioning was eight years ago, but the teachers placed the issue to the forefront as part of their good governance agenda. Today in Belmopan, Aaron Humes found out what the current appointees hope to do differently.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

The Integrity Commission was finally named today after months of pressure from all sectors of society and some wrangling over the nominees themselves. However, according to chair Marilyn Williams, their purpose and scope remains the same.

 

Marilyn Williams

Marilyn Williams, Chair, Integrity Commission

“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. I mean, the Act allows us to look at the declarations that are submitted, and look over them carefully, and come to a determination where a certificate will then be issued to say everything is in compliance; and if not, we call the specific member in and have discussions until such time that we feel the declarations are in order. The other thing is to deal with those acts that have been defined by the Act as corruption – we can conduct an investigation and at that point we will decide after we have done an investigation, which allows us to interview the person that the complaint is made against, to interview any witnesses that we feel might be necessary in terms of making a decision with regard to the whole process. And then if we feel that the matter needs to go further, then we submit it to the office of the D.P.P.”

 

Williams and her colleagues – Armead Gabourel; Lisbeth Delgado; Wilmot Simmons; Nestor Vasquez; Melissa Balderamos Mahler and Claudet Grinage – today swore to treat all who come into their care with neither affection nor ill-will – important considering their respective political backgrounds.

 

Nestor Vasquez

Nestor Vasquez, Member, Integrity Commission

“I will participate as is appropriate, as is required by the Integrity Commission. I will play my role.”

 

Wilmot Simmons, Member, Integrity Commission

“For me, doing my job, as being affiliated with a certain political party, will have nothing to do with the job I will be performing.”

 

The deadline for declarations is December thirty-first, with an extension up to March if needed. But as per the name of the body itself, it is personal integrity that remains the key to making it all work.

 

Marilyn Williams

“You’ve got to look at the entire document. It’s sort of like doing a financial investigation – when someone submits their financials, you look at it and you ask yourself, given the fact that line one says this, does line two make sense? Does line ten make sense? It’s not something that I can say to you right now, there is a red flag that we are looking for; we have to look at the document as a whole, and see whether it all makes sense.”

 

Nestor Vasquez

“Everyone that makes a declaration to the Integrity Commission are aware that it should be an honest statement, and if it is so, there should be no problems arising out of it. It’s [as] simple as that.”

 

Wilmot Simmons

Wilmot Simmons

“The people in public life, being the House of Representatives, the Senate and all other elected officials throughout the country – all they will need to is submit; there is a form that they will have to submit their assets, their liabilities and all their income, and just be honest. Just be honest on your submission, and from there we will go on. But we will not be witch-hunting anybody.”

 

From Belmopan, Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

The first meeting of the Commission took place shortly after their swearing-in; further meetings will depend on the members’ busy schedules. We note that Williams said she would have to research to be sure whether members of the Commission themselves are also subject to make declarations. At least two previous nominees ended up declining their nominations because of issues with their personal and financial records.

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