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May 12, 2017

Government Washes Hands off Integrity Commission

John Briceño

In December, the seven-member Integrity Commission was appointed in Belmopan. Barely a few months into their tenure, they have decided that a clean slate is needed in respect of financial disclosures for the period when the Commission was not in place. After originally demanding the disclosures for the five years preceding 2016, the Commission appears to have backed down due to legal pressure and threats. Leader of the Opposition John Briceño brought it up in the House on adjournment, reminding Prime Minister Dean Barrow of his promise to vigorously fight corruption. That prompted Mesopotamia area representative Michael Finnegan and the P.M. to defend the Commission’s members and their decision.

 

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

“The concern that we have, Madam Speaker, is that here we have the Commission writing us a letter to make all of these declarations; we know that a Minister had a lawyer write the Commission, challenging them that why is it, saying that they do not have the authority to ask for everybody to declare their assets. Now, Madam Speaker, the point I am trying to make here is that the people of this country have every right to know what is it are the assets that have been acquired by the members of the House and all the public officers. Now we on this side are not controlling the Government purses, it is the other side; so it is important for them to show what they had in 2008 and what they have today, and to explain how is it that many of them have become millionaires over the past nine years? (Applause)”

 

Laura Longsworth, Speaker of the House

“Are you on a point of order, please?”

 

Michael Finnegan

Michael Finnegan, Area Rep., Mesopotamia

“Madam Speaker, who tun millionaire over nine years?”

 

Laura Longsworth

“Are you speaking on a point of order, Honorable Member?”

 

Michael Finnegan

“That is inappropriate. I take strong objection to that. And if there is an Integrity Commission and a decision is taken by the Integrity Commission, what does the National Assembly have to do with that? Do we want to politicize the Integrity Commission? Everything – do we want to politicize everything in the country?”

 

Laura Longsworth

“Thank you, Member.”

 

Michael Finnegan

“The Integrity Commission is made up of both political parties – P.U.P. and U.D.P.”

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“A question arose as to whether they, under law, as a matter of law, could require members of the House – not just on this side – members of the House who were members at a time when there was no Integrity Commission and when, therefore, there was nobody to whom reports could be submitted, the current Integrity Commission took a decision that the answer to that is no: you can’t oblige somebody to go back now – and Madam Speaker, apart from the legal ramifications of the exercise; the public ought to understand that when you file these Integrity Commission reports, they ask you for the most detailed disclosures imaginable. You have to go back eight years – unless you are somebody who keeps meticulous records, there is no way you can remember or recollect in order to answer truthfully, half of what you are required to answer by way of those forms.”

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