Of the 30 Barbados Labour Party (BLP) members of parliament it was reported 24 supported the Integrity in Public Life Bill in the Lower House last week. The country will wait to see if the Bill passes the Upper House where it was defeated three years ago.
Already there is criticism coming from some quarters regarding the exemption of sitting judges, Director of Public Prosecutions and the Auditor General. Attorney General Dale Marshall explained that existing terms and conditions of employment makes it difficult to include those groups of public officers but new appointments will be included. Some will say given how problematic enacting integrity legislation has been for the last thirty years, let us start the ball rolling.
Of course if (when) the Bill is passed by the Upper House there will be the big job of operationalising by appointing an Integrity Commissioners and allocating required budget to ensure its effective working. There is reason to be concerned, several years after the creation of the Employment Rights Tribunal it continues to be negatively affected by being under resourced by government.
Corruption continues to be the scourge of man’s existence, one cannot listen or watch global news without a mention being made of corrupt behaviour by public and private players. The failings of man is a universal condition, local actors by some divine intervention are not exempted from being dishonest. Fortunately many of us, some suggest the majority, are driven to want to engage in honest behaviour. A responsible government must ensure a relevant governance framework to manage integrity in public life is implemented and robustly policed.
Although integrity legislation is a necessary start to monitor and ensure transgressors are punished – we wait for the sister laws governing freedom of information to be implemented as well – we should not forget the obvious, it takes two hands to clap. Public officers cannot exercise corrupt behaviour unless willing actors in the private sector make themselves available. We must ensure our court system is made fit for our purpose along with the Barbados Police Service and other enforcement agencies raise to support. In hindsight, it seems ludicrous those responsible have had to haggle for years to improve security at ports of entry. Honest citizens deserve to be protected from corrupt players.
The blogmaster understands why there is scepticism in some quarters about enacting legislation without including judges. It is no secret that in developing countries like Barbados this is where an elevated level of corruption is found. That said, the longest journey starts with the first step. Is it conceivable the Upper House will kick vote down the Bill because of this obvious fault line?
See Relevant Bill