Basseterre, St. Kitts, September 12, 2013 (SKNIS): The passage of the Integrity in Public Life Bill 2013 in the Federal Parliament of St. Kitts and Nevis has been hailed by Prime Minister the Right Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas who said it “goes to the heart of accountability and transparency in Government.”
The Bill, passed earlier this week, “makes provisions for the codes of conduct and declarations of interest for public officials, for the offences of abuse of office, misconduct and neglect of duty.”
“Persons will be actively engaged at all times in ensuring that there is integrity within their public lives as public servants, thus impacting positively on good governance in St. Kitts and Nevis,” the Prime Minister explained.
The Bill also makes provisions for the “establishment of an Integrity Commission, its powers, functions and to provide for related and incidental matters.”
Deputy Prime Minister the Honourable Dr. Earl Asim Martin revealed that the Commission will comprise of three members. The Chairperson is prescribed to be a retired judge or attorney-at-law with at least 15 years of experience. The person will be appointed by the Governor General. As for the other two members of the Integrity Commission, one will be appointed on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, while the other will be appointed as recommended by the Leader of the Opposition.
The categories of persons that fall under the purview of the Integrity Commission are wide ranging. These include members of the National Assembly, Ministers of Government, Heads of Diplomatic Missions of St. Kitts and Nevis accredited to other countries, the Commissioner of Police, Superintendant of Prisons, the Head of the Armed Forces, Permanent Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries and Heads of Departments.
Coverage will also include the Solicitor General and Legal Officers in the Public Service paid above the scale K40, Board Members and Chairpersons of Statutory Bodies, Directors and Managers of majority or state owned banks or other financial institutions or companies as well as Chairpersons and Executive Members of political parties.
“The persons will have to open themselves up to the public given the circumstances when it becomes necessary,” said Senator Richard Skerritt.
His colleague, Senator Nigel Carty, said that it was not easy for the Cabinet to bring the Integrity of Public Life Bill to the Parliament given the scope of the document. He added that he considers the Bill a “work in progress” as there are areas to be improved in terms of the people included and defined areas of conduct.
Senator Skerritt frowned upon the opposition members who opted to stay away from the debate of this important piece of legislation. He described their decision as a “tragedy” and highlighted that neglect of duty is an important inclusion in this Bill.
When gazetted, the new law will bring St. Kitts and Nevis in line with other countries around the region and the world which has similar legislation.