At yesterday’s Senate meeting, the new members of the Integrity Commission were appointed. The Government, who named four members, nominated Marilyn Williams as the chairperson, along with members Armead Gabourel, Lisbeth Delgado, Wilmot Simmons and Nestor Vasquez.
The Opposition named Melissa Balderamos-Mahler and Claudette Grinage.
Interestingly, Williams, Gabourel and Simmons have been like members-in-waiting because they had been named to the Commission since 2014 but the body never got to do any work because members stepped down following the introduction of new laws which made appointees to board and committees politically exposed persons.
Since then the Integrity Commission has been defunct and mostly due to the unwillingness from accountants to serve on the board. But Nestor Vasquez has stepped up to the plate.
When the appointed came up at Wednesday’s Senate meeting, the Opposition expressed concern that the Government’s picks are well-known UDP sympathizers.
Senator Paul Thompson - Opposition/PUP Senator
“If we are to adhere to the guidelines of UNCAC it requires that we promote independence, impartiality and integrity in public life. The UNCAC and the Integrity Commission are married at the hip, the Integrity Commission is a body that is set up to prevent corruption in public life, that is a major pillar of the UNCAC, both institutions should be autonomous bodies that are independent far removed from the influence of the people who they may have to someday investigate. Now, the government appointees to the Integrity Commission are persons that leave no doubt where they stand in terms of their political view. I will use one person from the government side, Mr. Wilmont Simmons as an example, this is not to pick on him, I do not consider him to be a bad person, I’ve known him most of my life, but there can be no question where his political loyalty stands, he is a part of the UDP.”
Hon. Vanessa Retreage, Government Senator/Attorney General
“Were being proposed are being chastised and being treated as if though they are not capable of having independent thought because they have openly expressed allegiance to one political party or the other, the same can be said for at least one of the persons nominated by the opposition but that won’t be said by this side because your political allegiance does not determine your capability of acting independently upon appointment and I wanted to make that point because it is regrettable that that is the talk that has been taken.”
While the attorney general found the aspersion regrettable, it is a real concern shared by many. All of the Government’s appointees including the accountant are well known, active UDP supporters. The Integrity Commission should provide a check and balance for Government Ministers and persons in public life.
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