The Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) says Jamaica must ensure that steps are taken to ensure that the Integrity Commission (IC) is protected from possible suppression of its authority and that its independence remains protected and preserved.
JCC President Archbishop Kenneth Richards of Kingston also called for balance in the treatment of the IC last February in the wake of the scathing criticism against the Commission and its officers.
The criticism was over their “perceived bungling” in the release of a report implicating Prime Minister Andrew Holness in a conflict-of-interest probe and the delay in the release of another report which stated that no charges would be brought against him.
“We believe that there is need for the nation’s continued commitment to the important role it (the IC) should play as an essential tool in the governance mechanism of our democracy,” Archbishop Richards said, according to a Jamaica Observer article.
He said the JCC has noted that the IC has attracted intense scrutiny and adverse criticism from many stakeholders.
“The partisan and sectarian reactions to the IC’s tabling in the Parliament of the report of the Director of Investigation and the ruling of the Director of Corruption Prosecution (that he should not be charged) are understandable and expected, as the respective proponents exercise their constitutional rights of free speech,” said the Archbishop.
He pointed out that the Commission has responded to these accusations with a statement which has essentially pointed to the prescriptions of the law as the basis on which it has understood and exercised its authority and conducted its affairs.
“The Jamaica Council of Churches agrees that great benefit could be derived from an effort by the Integrity Commission to provide greater clarification regarding its actions and supports the call for it to do so,” Archbishop Richards added.
The local news source said that the Commission and its commissioners have been severely criticised for the way in which the reports were made public and Government senators have called for the resignation of the IC’s Executive Director Greg Christie as a result.
The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica have added their criticism while calling on the Commission to provide clarity on the matter.
They want answers on why the IC’s report on the findings of the investigation was tabled in the Parliament two days before another report was made public which indicated that the IC’s Director of Corruption Prosecution had ruled that no charges should be brought against the prime minister.
The corruption probe related to nearly Jam $22 million in contracts being awarded to Westcon Construction Limited whose principals were personally known to PM Holness.
The contracts were awarded between 2006 and 2009 when Holness was the Minister of Education and the IC’s Director of Investigation suggested that Holness may have improperly influenced the award of several contracts to Westcon. He was cited for breaches of several pieces of legislation including the Corruption Prevention Act.
The report detailing the prime minister’s alleged transgressions was tabled in Parliament February 14 and received widespread coverage in the local and international media.
It was not until February 16 that the Commission released a follow-up report stating that its Director of Corruption Prosecution had ruled from as far back as January 12 that no charges be brought against Holness.
The Commission has defended its decisions, stating that it followed the law in releasing the reports in the way it did.