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Code lays down law to avoid corruption in Parliament

Best behaviour: members of the House of Assembly could come under investigation if they breach the code of conduct (File photograph)

An “ethics adviser” and an investigator are to be hired by to make sure politicians do not engage in “compromising activity’” that breaches parliamentary rules, the Government has announced.

A new Code of Conduct said: “Members must not act or make decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves or for any other person.

“In carrying out public business, members of the legislature must act impartially and fairly and should make choices on merit.

“Decisions, including making public appointments and awarding contracts, shall be evidence-based and made without bias or discrimination.”

The Code of Conduct, which covers MPs and senators, was tabled in the House of Assembly last Friday.

The code said: “Members of the legislature are public servants.

“As public servants, they undertake and have imposed on them a public trust and a fiduciary duty which requires them to put the public interest above all others.

“Their primary responsibility is to uphold and protect the interests of the citizens on whose behalf they act.”

MPs will be expected to behave with selflessness, honesty, openness and integrity under the rules of the code.

The code also insists that public servants show leadership, accountability and objectivity in their duties.

But the code will only apply to professional conduct and “is not intended to regulate the conduct of members in their private and personal lives”.

The ethics adviser will be appointed to provide advice ”on ethical issues, conflicts of interest, integrity issues and any issue arising from this code”.

An investigator with “extensive investigative skills” will be appointed to investigate any breach of the regulations.

The code said: “The adviser shall have extensive experience in dealing with professional ethics conflict resolution or law or other comparable qualifications as may be determined by the Ethics, Complaints, and Investigations Committee and shall possess knowledge, experience, personal attributes and standing within the community suitable to the office.

“Where members are unable to discuss ethical dilemmas with the adviser or, having done so, are unable to resolve the issue, members should proceed in accordance with this code or otherwise proceed with caution and make every effort not to engage in compromising activity.”

The code listed “general principals” that “will be taken into account when considering the investigation and determination of any allegations of breaches of the rules of conduct”.

It said that members should “have the fortitude to resist any attempts to be influenced inappropriately by their creditors or anyone else”.

The code also warned MPs to be open and transparent about their decisions in public office.

It said: “They should afford the public access to information particularly as regards the reasons for their decisions, restricting information only when the wider public interest clearly demands and where there are lawful reasons for non-disclosure.”

MPs must also disclose their interests and potential personal conflicts, not abuse expenses, and not take bribes.

The code added: “Members of the legislature whose responsibilities and duties relate directly to a specific area of employment shall not use their position to seek or secure future employment, consultancy work or other remuneration or benefit in that area of employment within one year from ceasing to be a member.”

The guidelines added that MPs and senators must attend “all sittings of the legislature”.

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Published November 08, 2021 at 7:55 am (Updated November 08, 2021 at 7:37 am)

Code lays down law to avoid corruption in Parliament

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