Barbados moves on plan to draft integrity law

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, June 27, 2008 – The Barbados Cabinet has set up a Governance Advisory Board to deal with a number of issues, including draft integrity legislation to guide behaviour of government ministers and senior public servants as well as other parties involved in related corruption.

Chairman of the Board, Senator Orlando Marville, said that in addition Freedom of Information, Defamation and Integrity draft Bills, the body would look at a constitutional amendment related to the tenure and power of the Prime Minister; and examine the role of the Ombudsman and a proposed Contractor General.

There have been numerous calls for integrity legislation and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Senator Maxine McClean, said the critical aspects of this law would relate to ministers of government and senior public servants.

“That would be facilitated by declaration of assets, for example, because in terms of decision making, a critical area would be the ability of those persons to demonstrate that they have not through their office, acquired assets illegally, etcetera,” she said. “That certainly is an area of critical interest to the public and we would want to demonstrate that there is proper compliance and observation of proper procedures in carrying out their duties.”

Senator McClean added that others would also be scrutinised, because “in any effort to compromise integrity there will be multiple parties involved and therefore we also have to look at the issue of parties to any kind of corruption”.   

Meantime, Senator Marville explained that the promised Freedom of Information Act would make it possible for “all citizens and other people of particular interest to access most information”.

He said only specific matters, like those related to national security and possible some other forms of personal information, would be held back from the public.

“The idea is to free up information so that you have a much wider source and you have greater transparency on government’s handling of information,” the chairman said. “The process is meant to be handled through the Barbados Government Information Service and there should be a Commissioner of Information who will make a determination where there are grey areas on what is allowable and what is not. We are hoping that most is allowable.”

With respect to the Defamation Act, Mr Marville pointed out that the current legislation did not allow for persons to freely express an opinion.

“If you voice an opinion and it cannot be proved to be fact, it doesn’t mean that you have done any malice to the person about whom you are talking, and I think we want to have something in that Act where malice has to be established,” he stressed.

After Cabinet signs off on these pieces of draft legislation, it is expected that town hall meetings to interact with the public as well as meetings with the media, social partners and other stakeholders will be held.