Irfaan Ali’s financial declarations to Integrity Commission gathering dust
JANUARY 6, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS
…as body lacks staff, investigative capacity
With the Integrity Commission currently hamstrung by its staffing constraints, the
declarations provided by Ministers and other public officials that fall under the requisite legislation, are currently gathering dust.
The Integrity Commission receives about 70 per cent of the obligatory financial and other declarations by certain categories of Public Officials, inclusive of that of Housing and Water Minister Irfaan Ali.
However, being staffed only with a Secretary and the few Commissioners, the body lacks the investigative capacity and as such is unable to determine whether the assets declared, coincides with the declarations.
Under the Integrity Commission Act, “Where a person who is or was a person in public life, or any other person on his behalf, is found to be in possession of property or pecuniary resource disproportionate to the known sources of income of the first mentioned person, and that person fails to produce satisfactory evidence to prove that the possession of the property or pecuniary resource was acquired by lawful means, he shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine and to imprisonment for a term of not less than six months nor more than three years.”
The fine is calculated in relation to the value of assets or property belonging to the named individual.
The Housing Minister’s declaration came into question recently with the publication of photos of a lavish seaside mansion owned by him coupled with a pool along with extravagant poolhouse.
Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon along with Office of the President subsequently defended the Minister against what they called a “character assassination” and “media excesses” but failed to provide any facts to support that Ali did lawfully acquire the money to build the property.
Ali had also defended himself by saying that he had spent the last four years struggling to finish the property.
A missive signed by 64 persons from the Leonora area and addressed to the media had insisted that, “Ali is the great grandson of one
Mr. Dos Mohamed, who was a very rich and well established business entrepreneur since in colonial days.
“Irfaan’s parents are both intellectuals, who are earning high salaries from their employ and other sources, thus they continue to this day to spend lavishly in fulfilling all of Irfaan’s maintenance. It is what they want to do to show their appreciation for a son that has made them proud,” the missive stated.
The Integrity Commission meets once monthly but without a Chairman and as such the work of the body is even more stymied.
The most recent Chairman of the Commission was Bishop Randolph George who resigned in 2009.
The Commission also falls under the Integrity Act and is empowered to request assistance from the Guyana Police Force through the Commissioner of Police as well as the Director of Public Prosecutions but is again stymied by its staffing constraints.
The Commission again came in for flak yesterday by A Partnership for National Unity whose Prime Ministerial Candidate Dr Rupert Roopnarine called the Commission a ‘toothless poodle.’
He said that realistically, the next step forward would be to put in a Commission that “we need an Integrity Commission that will do its work.”
Dr Roopnarine told media operatives during an APNU press briefing that this will include placing serious persons on the Commission and “it means above all providing the Commission with what it needs to do its work.”
He said too that the body must have an investigative capacity, adding that, “right now there is a requirement that officials, including Members of Parliament and other people should submit their financial reports to the Integrity Commission.”
The APNU Executive said that he is not sure that the declarations are even read by anyone when they are submitted.
“I Can tell you that I as an individual…when I served in the national Assembly, I refused to make any submissions to any Integrity Commission because in my view it was improperly constituted.”
Dr Roopnarine said too that it will be a novelty for him at this time to be making any submissions to the Integrity Commission where it will be studied carefully as should be the norm.
The Integrity Commission Act, Chapter 19:12 came into effect with the passage of the Integrity Commission Act No 20 of 1997. This law provides for the establishment of a Commission to ensure probity in public life, particularly among elected officials and public officers entrusted with responsibilities by the State.
Under this Law, the designated public officials are required to submit annual returns of their assets and may be subject to penalties if they fail to do so without reasonable cause, (Section 22(a) and 22 (a) i).
Among the declarations that are required to be made, are all gifts received by public officials and it is for the Integrity Commission to determine whether those gifts are personal, or, whether they belong to the State. The only exceptions are gifts from relatives.