OBA working on good governance measures, will consider Scott’s suggestions
Government will consider former Premier Alex Scott’s suggestions for fighting corruption as it moves on its own good governance reforms, Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy said yesterday.“In regard to the response to my recommendation for a bipartisan approach by the current parliament, to the establishment of an independent Commission to address in a comprehensive manner the complex issue of good governance and the support of Anti-Corruption Legislation, the OBA Government referred to a debate in parliament that occurred years ago featuring the now non-existent UBP Party who are no longer in parliament,” said Mr Scott.
But Mr Scott came in for some criticism by the Minister and the One Bermuda Alliance for failing to take action on improving governance while in office.
“Our introduction of the Integrity in Public Office legislation would indicate a zero tolerance of unethical behaviour by public officials and establish clear guidelines on what constitutes corrupt practices,” said Sen Fahy.
“There are many examples of anti corruption legislation from other jurisdictions that we will consider as we draft legislation appropriate for Bermuda, and we will also consider the suggestions made by Mr Scott.
“However I must note that it is a bit curious that Mr Scott was not able to bring similar legislation when he was Premier in the three years from 2003 to 2006. We note that in June 2005, the then Opposition leader now Minister, Dr Grant Gibbons, brought and debated a motion in the House, recommending similar legislation.”
The Minister continued: “Worldwide, governments are taking a stand to address unsavoury and unethical behaviour in the public and private sectors, and this Government is pleased to say it will soon be joining the ranks of those jurisdictions. Nevertheless we are pleased that Mr Scott is now embracing this concept and trust that his colleagues will support such legislation in the House when the Government brings it forward.”
The One Bermuda Alliance hit identical themes in a statement of its own, saying that it was sure that Government would review Mr Scott’s draft legislation for proposals “that can be incorporated into the OBA’s good governance programme.”
But, it added: “We note that Mr Scott’s years in public office, including nearly three as Premier, did not result in meaningful strengthening of governance measures, despite promises to do so.
“Indeed, when the Opposition called in June 2005 for stronger anti-corruption laws, Mr Scott rejected the call saying they were playing a dangerous game that could taint the Island’s reputation.
“Mr Scott’s Government did not support an Opposition motion the following year for legislation similar to that which Mr Scott brought forward last week.
“Had Mr Scott and the PLP government moved at the time to pass anti-corruption legislation, Bermuda may have been spared questionable activity that clearly damaged the Island’s reputation as a responsible and well-run jurisdiction.
“Good intentions are one thing, but without action they amount to little. The OBA will make the changes necessary to ensure Bermuda’s rules of governance provide its people with the checks and balances and clear standards of conduct for open, transparent and accountable government.”
Mr Scott said last night that he was undeterred by the OBA’s response, and he revealed that Premier Craig Cannonier has not responded to his communication on the issue.
“I, and most Bermudians, understood that the OBA Government desired to look ahead — and not back. I responded to that invitation by writing to the Governor, the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition. To date, the latter is the only individual who has extended me the courtesy of a response.
“However, I am not deterred and will continue to pursue the matter with the three gentlemen and the Honourable members of parliament who are prepared to commit to a bipartisan way forward in parliament on this important legislative objective.”
The OBA statement said that anti corruption moves “should be welcomed” and highlighted its own good governance promises which it said would “bring the highest levels of accountability and transparency to the business of government.
“Our programme was developed in the context of a troubling history in which public concerns about corruption within government formed over a series of scandals from the Bermuda Housing Corporation, pay-to-play fundraising, unrendered contracts and project cost overruns that cost taxpayers untold millions.
“Official investigations into various alleged wrongdoings also revealed the inadequacy of Bermuda’s existing laws, leading one investigator to conclude that officials had behaved ‘unethically but not illegally.’
Its proposals to improve accountability and transparency included “Integrity in Public Office legislation,” supporting the work of the Auditor General and zero tolerance of unethical behaviour. It also wants to establish guidelines on what corrupt behaviour is, implement freedom of information and whistle-blower legislation and create an independent Contractor General.
An independent Anti-Corruption Commission with investigatory powers, strong penalties for corrupt behaviour among public officials and whistle-blower protection are among the raft of measures being proposed by Mr Scott who has taken it upon himself to have the bill, called The Public Integrity Act, drafted.