Tuesday, December 4, 2012


It is difficult to understand why people are so surprised to learn that more than 300 persons who fall under the auspices of the Integrity legislation in Trinidad & Tobago haven't filed their 2011 declarations. Let's face it: filling out those forms is a pain in the neck (if not somewhere lower) and because there are so many forms to review a lot of people will reason that perhaps they might simply get away with it as the Integrity Commission simply won't have time to go after them. That is the reality of the human condition.

The truth is that the Integrity Commission with the best will in the world is largely ineffective and ineffectual ... and this comment has nothing to do with the competence or lack thereof of the Commissioners or their staff. It has everything to do with the fact that the legislation is cumbersome and unworkable. Case in point: is there anybody out there who wants to bribe an opposition senator or member of Parliament? No?! Why am I so surprised!! But opposition MP's and senators have to fill out the @#$%*&% forms! I remember once when I was an opposition senator the Integrity Commission began asking me what I considered at the time to be really stupid questions concerning a matter in my form. I got really quite upset with not only the stupidity of the questions but with the sheer arrogance of the Commission. The matter was eventually resolved by the then Commission Chairman John Martin meeting personally with me and apologising orally for their arrogance and stupidity and acknowledging that in no way was I suspected of doing anything wrong but that they were just "following protocol", and begging me just to give a simple answer to one question which I did. I had been prepared though as a matter of principle to let them take me to Court. And I did ask them for the names of anyone who might want to bribe me! After all, as an opposition senator there was absolutely no way that I could award or influence the award of ANY contract. Stupidity! But if I told you of the time that was wasted on this nonsense you would want to cry!

But there are a lot of people who probably should fall under the net but aren't there. For example, there are a lot of not-so-high but not-so-low civil servants who can do a lot of damage to the public purse if they so desired. Then again, who is more guilty: the "bribor" or the "bribee". And yet we ignore the "bribor".

I could go on, but hopefully you get the point. Why don't we do it another way? Instead of requiring a huge amount of persons in public life to file a return every year, why don't we widen the net to include just about everybody who might be capable of being involved in "bobol" of one kind or another, but that nobody be required to file an annual return as such. Then we give the Integrity Commission the power to make enquiries of any person for any period that he is in public life. This way, for example, if it was suspected that Minister X was paid a bribe by contractor Y for project Z the Integrity Commission could go into Y's books to see whether or not there have been any suspicious payments. Then the Integrity Commission could take a harder look at X.  Follow the money and you usually will find the crook.

In other words, rather than making everyone file every year, only those persons whom the Integrity Commission decides to be investigated would have to answer. A lot of time wasting and inefficiency would be avoided and the Integrity Commission would become much more effective and efficient.

One final problem could be the possibility of witch hunts. Yes. In this country that is a real possibility. But we could figure out a way to deal with that. Indeed, I have one or two ideas of how we might deal with it which I would prefer not to discuss at this time. That would be for another post IF this idea were to gain "traction". There is no point in discussing something now that simply ain't gonna happen! But then again you never can tell.  What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. You're right! It ain't gonna happen. When last did teh Integrity Commission SUCCESSFULLY prosecute someone?