Where Are The Required Financial Declarations from Ministers?
As we come to the end of the year, it is time for a remainder of the constitutional obligations for all public officers as stated in the Constitution of St. Lucia.
“119. Declaration of assets
(1) The Integrity Commission shall obtain declarations in writing from time to time of their assets, liabilities and income from Senators and members of the House (including Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries) and from the holders of such other offices as Parliament may prescribe.
(2) There shall be such provision as may be made by Parliament in relation to the due performance by the Commission of its functions under this section, including its powers, privileges, immunities and procedure and the security and confidentiality of the information it receives.”
It is critical for all members of society to follow the laws that are applicable even if it may uncomfortable or they disagree with it. All persons in public life are reminded that the Integrity in Public Life Act Chapter 1.19 (The Act) requires such persons to file with the Integrity Commission, a declaration of income, assets and liabilities for the year December 31st of each year. According to the Act “a person who fails to furnish the Commission a declaration or further particulars thereof, which he or she is required to furnish in accordance with this Act commits an offence, and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $50,000.00 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or both.” Further “the commission shall publish the fact in the Gazette and send a report to the Director of Public Prosecution for further action.”
Does the Current Cabinet Meet their Constitutional Obligations?
The July 6th 2020 Gazette listed numerous public officers who have either not filed their asset declarations or had pending requests for further particulars. This was also covered in the following news story. This included our current Prime Minister Allen Chastanet who still had a pending request for further particulars and it is not clear if this was ever resolved. Is he leading by example by not following his constitutional responsibilities to the people of St. Lucia?
The lack of the required financial disclosure statements makes it much more difficult to determine any conflict of interest as was implied during the recent denial from the Prime Minister here. “I can assure everyone categorically — at no point have I recommended or pushed business my father’s way,” Chastanet declared. While he can make such “categorical denials” he FAILS to complete his constitutional obligations regarding financial disclosure of his assets. If he did not want to fulfil this obligation, then he should not have chosen public office and remained in the private sector.
Why Do We Require Financial Declarations From Public Officers?
Just as expect, returning nationals to follow all COVID-19 protocols and abide by the home quarantine guidelines if they want to visit St. Lucia then we should have similar expectations from persons who would like to be public officers. The lack of financial declaration reports from our public officers’ result in an insufficient check on government corruption. The World Bank published the following report on why public disclosure of financial assets is essential to mitigate corruption “Indeed, a rigorous system of asset disclosure by relevant officials has been identified as a powerful tool to prevent conflicts of interest, corruption and hold government accountable.”
In order to ensure a responsible level of transparency and accountability financial disclosure must be made more reliable and accessible to all St. Lucians. Does the Allen Chastanet government believe they are not accountable to the people of St. Lucia?
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