By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
CABINET Office yesterday announced the resignation of Myles Laroda as Public Disclosure Commission chairman.
Mr Laroda tendered his resignation, with immediate effect, February 18.
George Carey has replaced him with immediate effect.
The Tribune reported nearly two weeks ago that Mr Laroda was confirmed by the Progressive Liberal Party’s Candidates Committee to fight as their election candidate for the Pinewood constituency.
News of Mr Laroda’s confirmation enraged some Free National Movement supporters who told The Tribune at the time that his position as chairman of the PDC placed him in a position that gave the upper hand over Pinewood incumbent Reuben Rahming.
“Now why should Laroda be privileged to not only Rahming’s disclosure documents, but other FNM hopefuls? He should resign the post forthwith,” one FNM supporter said on condition of anonymity.
Another FNM supporter held the view that Mr Laroda should have left the post some time ago to focus on his own political aspirations.
While he served as chairman of the PDC, Mr Laroda has gone on record as saying the group needed to be independent of the government, a change that would give the body the “teeth” it needs.
In a recent interview with The Tribune, he said the law governing the commission had virtually gone unchanged since coming into force and should offer a remedy to modern day challenges.
The Free National Movement in its 2017 Manifesto pledged to amend the Public Disclosure Act to broaden its scope of application to include campaign finance reform and to make provision for direct referral to an independent prosecutor.
However, with a little over a year left in the Minnis administration’s term in office it appears the needed changes to the Act have not been prioritised.
Asked recently about progress in this regard, Attorney General Carl Bethel said the government tabled a bill in Parliament that honours the FNM’s campaign promise.
But he said the real question was when the Integrity Commission Bill would be debated in the lower chamber – a matter “yet to be determined” he said.
Mr Laroda said this is an important step if matters of anti-corruption practices are to be taken seriously.
In fact, he said since 2017 there have been recommendations made to strengthen these kinds of laws.
“I know that they tabled the Integrity (Bill) that is supposed to repeal the Public Disclosure Act,” Mr Laroda said during a recent interview when asked about changes to the legislation. “I think I may have said in 2015 there was a report that made certain recommendations to strengthen our anti-corruption laws. I think that was in 2017.
“We would have made recommendations that the government follow those recommendations that were put in. At that time the Prime Minister had given his word verbally that he was in agreement with a lot of those things in the recommendation.”
He also said: “So this is very important. The Public Disclosure Act has not been updated. There have been a lot of changes that were done.
“There are certain positions in the public service that did not exist at the time, so we need to really have a piece of legislation to actually put teeth to this.
“The Public Disclosure Commission is like a department in the Cabinet Office, but there should be independence. We should not be dependent on the government.
“A lot of its members who are subject to the Public Disclosure Act are the ones to be gazetting this information so there should be an update.”
The updates, Mr Laroda said, would clamp down on officials who are not compliant with the Public Disclosure Act.
Mr Laroda told The Tribune that senior civil servants are less compliant with legally mandated disclosures than members of Parliament and senators.
Despite challenges sparked by COVID-19, he said last month both groups were largely in line with the demands of the Act.
The Public Disclosure Act requires members of Parliament, senators and senior public officials to declare their assets, income and liabilities by March 1 each year.