• Tue. Sep 20th, 2022

Shortage of staff, dysfunction at the Integrity Commission

ByChad J. Johnson

May 29, 2022

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Prof Rajendra Ramlogan, Chairman of the Integrity Commission. –

ALARMING instances of dysfunction and insubordination are highlighted in the Integrity Commission’s latest annual report, making the commission’s ability to effectively oversee politicians and others in public life less than partially effective.

The controversy involving the commission, which serves as a watchdog to examine the assets, liabilities and recordable interests of people in public life, is not the first as on two occasions the council had to resign over improper conduct .

In the 2021 annual report, the chairman, Professor Rajendra Ramlogan, said the entire Integrity Commission investigations unit had resigned over its opposition to plans to introduce performance metrics for the personal.

He also alleged that senior commission officials defied instructions from the board of commissioners.

Ramlogan said the commission had requested a report on the status of all ongoing investigations, amid “serious performance issues” as 15 investigations were ongoing, some since 2013.

The report says that of 462 cases listed in an audit, some 92 that were completed over 20 years remained undetermined. Five files were mysteriously missing, 330 were closed and 27 were pending. The report also says that staff responsible for monitoring the compliance of people’s declarations in public life has been reduced by 70% between 2017 and 2021, leaving some 4,500 registerable declarations and declarations of interest outstanding.

As a result, many returns and returns filed since 2014 have yet to be reviewed by the Compliance Unit, Ramlogan said.

Ramlogan lamented “a total dysfunction” between the staffing arrangements and the main statutory functions of the commission.

“While it is customary for administration to represent between 20 and 30% of the workforce in business operations, this (administrative staff) amounted to 63% on commission. “Compliance officers made up 20% of the personnel and investigations 17 percent.

“These are stark figures that can perhaps explain the public perception of the commission’s failure to fulfill its statutory mandate.”

Under Ramlogan, the commission created an investigative subcommittee “to allow for a thorough review of the operation of the investigative unit on individual investigations.”

“The commission has sought to introduce job performance appraisals of all investigators before the renewal of employment contracts.

“Investigators are required to report their performance to the Commission’s Support Services Sub-Committee to discuss performance issues prior to contract renewal.”

The president said the director of investigations had been made aware of specific performance concerns.

“However, the Director of Investigations refused to attend the meetings.

“The Commission then took a unanimous decision not to renew his contract, but his contract was renewed by the Registrar in defiance of the Commission’s unanimous decision.”

Ramlogan said the former director of investigations later resigned during the term of his renewed contract.

“The commission’s efforts to introduce performance metrics into the investigations unit to ensure that investigations are conducted with greater professionalism have led to a dispute, resulting in the resignation of the entire unit. investigations.”

Ramlogan lamented that the Investigations Unit only had one unsuccessful prosecution of one complaint, which the court granted a stay, referring to the case of Wellington Virgil v Basdeo Panday before Magistrate Marcia Murray. Ramlogan cited a ruling that the commission had been “recklessly indifferent” in reporting Panday to the director of public prosecutions in 2002 without presenting him with the findings of its investigation and without giving him every opportunity to be heard.

He said the commission was seeking to insist on a six-month deadline to resolve all complaints.

Ramlogan said some senior officers either refused to carry out several unanimous decisions of the commission or made independent decisions without seeking the advice of the commission.

“The result was that decisions such as submitting budget estimates, renewing employment contracts, employing staff, implementing security policies and closing the Commission were made independently of the Commission, although sometimes with the alleged acquiescence of external governmental authorities. entities.

“The Registrar’s refusal to allow the Commission to participate in the preparation of the budget estimates for 2022 has been particularly problematic.

“This is in direct contradiction to the Integrity in Public Life Act, the Exchequer and Audit Act and the Ministry of Finance Appeal Circular dated March 24, 2021.”

Last November, the media had reported that some staff members had complained to several bodies (such as the Public Utilities Commission) about the commission chairman’s treatment of staff, with these complaints having been approved by the former Chief of Investigations (Richard Frederick) speaking to the media. . In response, the commission issued a statement saying the chairman had raised with his fellow commissioners the “numerous concerns and negative views” expressed by citizens over the years about the commission’s effectiveness in carrying out its duties. functions.

He had sought advice from the PSC, the Chief Personnel Officer and the Solicitor General, and believed he had acted on the advice received.

“The commission has received buy-in regarding its organizational changes from some, but not all, of its staff.”

The statement had said managing change was never an easy process.

“The commission respects the right of people who are not comfortable with change to choose a path that does not involve adapting to unfamiliarity with a changed environment. But change is necessary if one wants to improve the execution of the commission’s statutory mandate.”