ALEX DOWNES, firstname.lastname@example.org
BLP members Ralph Thorne (left), Dale Marshall (centre) and Wilfred Abrahams during the press conference. (Picture by Alex Downes.)
(The Nation) With Barbados falling in the international corruption rankings, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is proposing new anti-corruption measures.
The party plans to lay its Integrity Commission Bill before Parliament at its first sitting if it wins the next general elections, constitutionally due early next year.
Yesterday, the trio of Shadow Attorney General Dale Marshall, candidate for Christ Church South Ralph Thorne QC and candidate for Christ Church East Wilfred Abrahams announced the party’s proposed Integrity Commission Bill.
Speaking to the media at the Opposition Leader’s office in the West Wing of Parliament Buildings, Marshall said the new bill would bring a host of changes and improvements when compared with the current Prevention Of Corruption Act, which had been on Barbados’ books since 1929.
While announcing the proposed bill, available on the party’s social media channels for public perusal, Marshall tore into Prime Minister Freundel Stuart for his defence of the 1929 Prevention Of Corruption Act.
“In Barbados today, corruption appears to be at an unprecedented level. Our Prime Minister should have been ashamed to say that we still have a law in Barbados dealing with corruption when he knew he was talking about a 1929 statute as if to suggest that the existing law is adequate to deal with today’s problems,” he continued.
Marshall, who served as Attorney General from 2006 to 2008, explained the bill had gotten help from several key legal professionals such as chairman of the Turks and Caicos Islands Integrity Commission, Sir David Simmons, both a former Chief Justice and Attorney General of Barbados.
According to the international non-governmental organisation Transparency International’s 2016 rankings, Barbados is ranked as the 31st least corrupt out of 176 countries in the world. While that is the highest ranking in the Caribbean, Barbados dropped 16 places from the number 15 position it held in 2012.
With the existing 1929 act outdated in the BLP’s estimation, Marshall also described the 2012 bill brought by the present Democratic Labour Party administration as “woefully inadequate” as it failed to address several key aspects necessary in anti-corruption legislation.
Those key areas included higher fines for those found guilty of corruption, the seizure of assets, constitutional protection for the commission as well as the disclosure of assets for officials, spouses and dependent children.
The 2012 legislation, which was passed in Parliament, was never proclaimed.
Under the 1929 act, the highest fine for corruption is $2 400. Under the BLP’s proposed legislation it will be $500 000.
Another important area in the BLP bill will be protection for whistle-blowers, guaranteeing privacy and penalties for those found guilty of victimising whistle-blowers, Marshall said.
“I cannot overestimate how important this is,” he said.
Abrahams described the new act as the cornerstone of ushering in a new regime of transparency and accountability in Barbados. (AD)