BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - DESPITE calls for public officials to file their declarations of assets to the Integrity Commission, it seems as though some individuals did not adhere to the constitutional mandate, which has led to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) issuing a final warning and the consequences for non-compliance.
Back in December, DPP Adlai Smith issued a warning that public officials should file their declarations or face prosecution under the Integrity in Public Life Act,Cap 22.18.
In a media statement, the DPP’s Office said that it “acknowledges the receipt as of the 10th day of January 2024 of a communication from the Integrity Commission regarding the failure of numerous public officials to comply with the mandatory declaration requirements as stipulated under Section 30 of the Integrity in Public Life Act, Cap 22.18, as amended”.
Smith noted: “As the custodian of legal enforcement in our Federation, this Office views any breach of the Act with the utmost seriousness, especially by those in positions of public trust. It is the constitutional mandate of this Office to uphold the law, ensuring justice and fairness without fear or favour.”
Against that backdrop, the DPP has extended the deadline to January 26 for the final submission and disclosed that charges would be laid in February against those who fail to comply.
“In light of the received information, this Office is currently preparing charges for the individuals on the provided list. Due to the list's length and the need to resolve certain administrative particulars, we anticipate that all charges, brought under the authority of the Director of Public Prosecutions, will be filed by Thursday, 1st February 2024. The high ideals of justice and fairness, which are the bedrock of our legal system, necessitate stringent adherence to the laws governing public integrity,” DPP Smith said in a media statement.”
He wrote that the requirement for public officials to file declarations of their income, assets, liabilities, and private interests “is a critical tool in the fight against corruption”, adding that “this mechanism ensures transparency and accountability, deterring the misuse of public office for personal gain. Moreover, while some may find these requirements intrusive, they are essential checks against corruption”.
Smith stressed, “More importantly, they shine a light on potential conflicts of interest and illicit activity, safeguarding the public trust and ensuring integrity in government. The discomfort of compliance pales in comparison to the necessity of maintaining integrity within our public institutions.”
According to the DPP, “The refusal to file statutory declarations of assets and liabilities, as mandated by the Integrity in Public Life Act, may seem like an isolated act of defiance. However, it is the first, insidious crack in the dam of societal order. It establishes the dangerous precedent that laws can be ignored if one deems them personally inconvenient.”
“If public officials, sworn to uphold the law, can circumvent this vital transparency measure, what message does it send to the wider citizenry?” questioned Smith, adding: “Furthermore, as law becomes selective, so too does trust. The public, witnessing public officials cherry-picking which laws to obey, justifiably questions the integrity of the entire system.”
To this end, he charged, “There will be NO FURTHER WARNING. “All of these opportunities for compliance have been made to demonstrate to the Court that every effort has been made to reach out to defaulters to comply. Charges, once finalized and filed, will carry the full weight of the Act, with potential fines of up to $30,000.00 or imprisonment for up to three years.”
The Integrity Commission had set a deadline of July 31, 2023 for all filings before extending that to December 1, but to no avail. Now the next filing will be on April 2024 which start the new filing cycle.