By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
FORMER Public Disclosure Commission chairman Myles Laroda said The Bahamas lags far behind other countries in the region regarding anti-corruption legislation, adding the Progressive Liberal Party plans to enact a bill to change that.
He was referring to the Integrity Commission Bill. It was tabled in the House of Assembly in 2017 by the Minnis administration, but was never read, debated or passed into law.
Mr Laroda, who is the PLP’s candidate for the Pinewood constituency, pointed to the Bill as he was unpacking challenges he faced while heading the PDC, a post he held until February 18 of this year. He resigned shortly after being confirmed as a PLP candidate.
George Carey replaced him with immediate effect.
While in that post, Mr Laroda often spoke of being a “toothless tiger” as the Public Disclosure Act did not make the PDC autonomous.
Yesterday, as a guest on Guardian Talk Radio show “Morning Blend” with host Dwight Strachan, Mr Laroda further suggested that there may have been politicians and high-ranking public servants who did not want their finances published. However, he said to his knowledge no one had ever faced fines or time in prison for failing to adhere to the law.
“I always referred to myself, actually the name was coined by a good friend of mine, Philip McKenzie, that I was a toothless tiger,” Mr Laroda said in response to a question by the show’s host.
“If you read the Public Disclosure Act it really ties the hand of the commission because it’s not an independent commission. It doesn’t have autonomy. It has no budget. It is basically a department of the Cabinet Office.
“The Prime Minister leads the executive team in the country. He is subject to the Public Disclosure Act and the secretary to the Cabinet, and we cannot have an effective anti-corruption agency if those who are required to be subjected to this piece of legislation and this Act are actually those who are in charge of the committee that is overseeing it. That is the reality.
“During my last term at the commission during the FNM’s term I met with the Prime Minister and we as a body actually read those recommendations into our meeting with the Prime Minister and one of the things that we want to stress is this commission should be independent. The Public Disclosure Commission has no bank accounts.
“Before anything is done it has to be done with written consent from the Attorney General and so this act that was passed in 1976, it’s (now) 2021.
“There are certain positions that were subject to the Act that did not exist back then. Those positions or people now who are required to act when the Act was implemented, those positions did not even exist.
“I have had the privilege to go to an anti-corruption integrity commission conference in the Cayman Islands and I could tell you The Bahamas lags far behind other jurisdictions in our region with regards to anti-corruption and integrity.”
He continued: “You have to have an independent group who is not dependent on the government to print those disclosures. I think from (when) I was there I may have had maybe one or two disclosures that were done.
“We are years behind because we have a situation with not only with the 39 Members of Parliament and 16 senators, but you also have senior civil servants and it’s an office that is understaffed of resources and we need an Integrity Commission that stands alone that is independent that does not have to deal with the executive or the legislative and just let the cards fall where they may.”
Asked if there were plans to change this should the PLP be elected to office, Mr Laroda said: “If I’m not mistaken before the House was prorogued, I think a bill was tabled – the Integrity Bill.
“It was never read and passed, the next PLP government would have to deal with that.
“I say this: I would have spoken to the leader of the party, and he has said to me that he has no problem in bringing that piece of legislation that deals with anti-corruption, Integrity Commission.”
Mr Laroda added that he was of the view that people who did not adhere to the Public Disclosure Act should be exposed. The PDC should be given the ability to do this, he said.
“Absolutely, politicians whether they be elected or appointed know the rules of the game.
“They know this Act exists. They know that once they become a public figure that is one of the criteria and so there is no excuse for those individuals who take on that responsibility not to disclose their assets.
“If you don’t want your business in the public domain then don’t run for public office. That’s my personal view. There is no excuse for individuals who are in public life having an issue with disclosing their personal wealth,” Mr Laroda said.
DDK 1 year, 6 months ago
Headline, Triibune 🤣
JokeyJack 1 year, 6 months ago
KapunkleUp 1 year, 6 months ago
Can anyone remember even a single politician, lawyer or high ranking government department official going to prison for corruption? Just one name?
JokeyJack 1 year, 6 months ago
Mr. Laroda, the Bahamian people have woken up and are prepared for the "black out." One week to go for the new COI government. Bahamians are tired of corruption, high taxes, broken schools, terrible jobs, and every other problem in this country that we have had for decades.
Change ain't coming ! Change is here !!!!!
crawfish 1 year, 6 months ago
Jokey Jack, I think you have your finger squarely on the pulse of the Country. The COI voters in the majority are keeping quiet, knowing exactly what they are going to do on Election Day. The change for which the Country thirsts is definitely coming, and coming in a big way. BLACKOUT!!!!!!
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