Reported By Frank Girard
HBN St. Lucia
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, July 25, 2006 – Several top St. Lucian public servants, including a government minister, four former senators, the tourism director, the ambassador to the UN and the counsel general to Miami, are being investigated for failing to declare their assets to the island’s integrity commission.
Minister of Physical Development Ferguson John is among the most high profile government official heading the list of defaulters. Joining him are former senators Petra Jeffrey-Nelson, Rhikkie Alexander, Gail Philip and Lennard Montoute as well as independent senator, Ferrel Charles.
Earl Huntley, the island’s ambassador to the United Nations also made the list along with Kent Hippolyte, St. Lucia’s consul general to Miami; Emmanuel Cotter, the High Commissioner to the UK and Hilary Modeste, St. Lucia’s director of tourism.
Others include Leader of the Opposition United Workers Party, Marcus Nicholas; Peter Lansiquot, the Head of Mission of Saint Lucia’s Embassy in Cuba; Dorothy Michel, the Consul General to Cuba; Cassius Elias, consul general to Martinique; Labor Party MP, Cecil Lay; Director of Prisons, Hilary Herman; Chief Fire Officer Augustin Gaspard; Registrar of the High Court, Andra Gokool-Foster; Michael Chastanet, chairman of the National Development Corporation and Chairman of Radio St. Lucia, Jn. Francois Sonson.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Victoria Charles-Clarke, says she has forwarded the names of the senior public servants to the police commissioner and the Integrity Commission. Many of failed filings go as far back as December 31, 2003, she said.
Police Commissioner Ausbert Regis has begun an intensive investigation as required by law while chairman of the Integrity Commission, Archdeacon of the Anglican Church Randolph Evelyn, has been informed about the investigations.
Under Section 20 of the Integrity in Public Life Act, all public servants are required to declare their assets. The Director of Public Prosecutions is given five-years to prosecute defaulting public servants. DPP Charles-Clarke says she will await a formal report from Police Commissioner Regis in order to take legal action.
The integrity legislation provisions were put in place to ensure checks on the assets and liabilities of politicians, senior public servants and persons managing statutory corporations. Ministers and public officials are required to disclose their income, how much they owe and to whom, their investments if any, properties and even the life insurances that they carry. Spouses are also subject to scrutiny in cases where property is acquired while their partner holds public office.
An independent commission, appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister and leader of the opposition, is charged with receiving and investigating complaints regarding non-compliance with or breach of the act as well as receive, examine and retain all declarations filed with it and make such enquiries as it considers necessary in order to verify or determine the accuracy of the declaration filed. Apart from the chair, other members of the Commission include a seasoned journalist, a former banker and Castries businessman, an accountant and a lawyer.
The penalties in cases of corruption are severe. Any person found guilty of an act of corruption can face penalties of up to one hundred thousand dollars or fifteen years imprisonment. (Hardbeatnews.com)
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