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Brown refuses on principle to declare financial interests to Parliament

Opposition MP Walton Brown is refusing to declare his financial interests to Parliament — on a point of principle.

The Shadow Education Minister says he won’t submit his details for the Register of Interests until there is clarity on what the law requires election candidates to disclose about involvement with Government contracts.

Mr Brown wants a bipartisan parliamentary select committee to be set up to look at statutory requirements for pre-election disclosure, claiming: “It has entered into a murky area and that needs to be resolved.”

The Progressive Labour Party politician told

The Royal Gazette a question mark still hung over whether the One Bermuda Alliance complied with the law before the December general election.

The OBA did not disclose interests in Government contracts for any of its 36 election candidates, claiming there was nothing to declare.

The PLP, which paid for a newspaper advert listing its candidates’ interests, disputed that on the eve of the election, claiming the rival party had failed to be transparent and to comply with section 30 (6) of the Constitution, which requires the disclosure.

It alleged that OBA candidates Bob Richards and Jeff Sousa, who both won their seats, had an interest in companies which held Government contracts and should be disqualified for failing to disclose that.

Mr Brown said yesterday he understood the OBA’s position to be that it was not required to make disclosures, under the provisions of the Parliamentary Act.

“If the Constitution is interpreted as meaning no one needs to make a declaration, then it further makes a mockery of the [voluntary] Register of Interests,” the MP said.

“There are a set of laws that govern the process leading to election: the Bermuda Constitution and the Parliamentary Act. My concern is that the legislation was not properly adhered to.

“I am not giving an opinion on whether they [the OBA] violated the Constitution; I’m saying it’s murky. If they don’t need to [disclose], then no one ever needs to again.

“Therefore, I did not fill out any Register of Interests in Parliament. I have done it deliberately.”

Mr Brown said he’d proposed a motion on the issue to the Speaker of the House of Assembly and was still in discussion with him about it. The other option, he added, was to ask the Governor to step in.

“Parliament has the ability, as the supreme legislative body, to assess such matters,” he said. “My concern is that we assess the extent to which the Constitution sets out what needs to be done.

“A committee could look at the candidates and then those people who were successful. Parliament can look at everything.”

He added: “Why have laws if we are not careful to ensure that those laws are adhered to and properly complied with?”

An OBA spokesman said yesterday he could not clarify what the party’s position was on the legal requirements for pre-election disclosure.

The Register of Interests, which can be viewed online or at Sessions House, was set up to ensure information about any pecuniary interest or other benefit which could influence a politician’s actions be fully disclosed.

A cross-party parliamentary committee oversees the register but does not have powers to impose sanctions on MPs or senators who fail to declare their interests.

PLP MP Walton Brown
<B>Most MPs have declared interests</B>

The majority of parliamentarians have declared their financial interests in the Register of Interests at Sessions House though they are not required in law to do so.The Royal Gazette it was simply an oversight.Useful website:

A check of the register yesterday found completed forms for 28 of the 36 MPs and six of the 11 senators.

Those whose forms had not been submitted as of yesterday morning were: Attorney General Mark Pettingill; Education Minister Nalton Brangman; Government MPs Kenneth Bascome, Nandi Davis, Leah Scott and Suzann Roberts-Holshouser; Opposition MPs Walton Brown, Lawrence Scott and Rolfe Commissiong; One Bermuda Alliance senators Alexis Swan and Jeff Baron and Progressive Labour Party senators Marc Daniels and Renee Ming.

Four of the politicians who had failed to make disclosures Mr Bascome, Ms Davis, Mr Scott and Senator Daniels - actually sit on the parliamentary committee which oversees the register.

It wasn’t possible yesterday to reach every member whose form had not been submitted but several told

Mr Pettingill said in an e-mail: “Thanks for reminding me! I have resigned from my law firm [Charter Chambers] and currently have no interests in any local business.”

Senator Daniels, who is managing director of Charter Chambers, forwarded his completed form to the House of Assembly after we pointed out it was missing.

He wrote that he thought he had already sent it, adding: “It appears that it was an inadvertent error on my part and nothing more.”

Ms Roberts-Holshouser also sent us her form, which shows she works part-time as a marketing and promotion manager for Dunkley’s Dairy and part-time as a “duckee” for the Corporation of St George.

She explained in an e-mail: “I am afraid there is nothing exciting. I actually thought this was one of the many forms I had completed and submitted.”

Mr Commissiong said: “I intend to address this matter presently as it was an unintended omission or oversight on my behalf.”

Shadow Education Minister Mr Brown, who is refusing to complete his form on a point of principle, told this newspaper: “I have nothing to hide.” He said the only financial interest he had was his company Research Innovations, of which he is the sole owner.

The register was set up to ensure full disclosure by politicians of any financial interest or benefit which could influence their actions.

The overseeing committee does not have the power to impose sanctions on those who don’t comply.

Government Whip Cole Simons said: “I have spoken today with members on this matter and can say that it comes down to an oversight that will be rectified by them as a matter of urgency.”

PLP acting leader Derrick Burgess did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment.


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Published April 03, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 03, 2013 at 1:00 am)

Brown refuses on principle to declare financial interests to Parliament

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