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House: MPs face tighter code of conduct

Government reform minister Lovitta Foggo (File photograph)

Government ministers will be required to disclose any hospitality they receive which could influence them, under new amendments to their code of conduct.

Government reform minister Lovitta Foggo said the move comes in the light of the Jetgate affair under the One Bermuda Alliance administration.

She told MPs the amended ministerial code of conduct would require a minister to disclose all gifts to the permanent secretary as soon as possible after their receipt.

Ms Foggo said: “Further, a minister will also be required to disclose all hospitality from any source which might reasonably be thought to influence ministerial action in any manner.

“For example, honourable members will recall instances where private air transportation and complimentary high-end dinners to discuss potential business, such as casinos or gaming, were accepted by a previous administration. The amended code requires that a minister must immediately disclose such hospitality.

“An official disclosure form will be created and distributed electronically to each minister and ministry to ensure that this mandate is operationalised.

“Transparency and integrity in office are at the heart of this endeavour.”

The amendments are expected to be tabled in the House of Assembly in the coming weeks, Ms Foggo said.

The minister also said she had been a fierce advocate for establishing parliamentary oversight committees which would improve governance, reduce waste and increase efficiency, and is working with the legislature to ensure they are formed.

Other planned moves include making Cabinet accountable for its own decisions, instead of senior civil servants.

She said: “The supremacy of Cabinet in Bermuda’s system of government is a long settled position.

“In recent years there has been a very public attempt to enjoin senior civil servants with Cabinet and to make them responsible for the decisions of Cabinet. This is fundamentally wrong and contrary to a core tenet of our style of government.

“Therefore, the code contains a provision that recognises the authority of the Cabinet and seeks to make Cabinet accountable for its decisions subject to documenting the rationale.

“This provision is intended to relieve senior civil servants of the obligation to justify decisions of Cabinet.”

• To read Ms Foggo’s statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”