...SKNIS published the wrong dates
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - THE Director of Public Prosecutions, Adlai Smith, has confirmed that seven of the eight persons who were on the list to be prosecuted for failing to declare their assets will not be prosecuted due to a report published by the Government Information Service (SKNIS).
The report, which was published on January 18, miscommunicated the filing date and the subsequent prosecution date.
This was made known by the DPP in a press statement on Tuesday (Feb. 6) evening.
“A discrepancy has emerged regarding the deadline for filing declarations, attributed to an inadvertent miscommunication through an official government channel, SKNIS, which erroneously indicated a deadline extension to February 1st, 2024,” DPP Smith said in his press release.
He added: “The said miscommunication appeared in an online article dated January 18th 2024 under the headline ‘Final Call for Integrity Declarations Deadline set for February 01st 2024.’ It is imperative to note that this office had consistently communicated the official deadline as January 26th, 2024. This misrepresentation as to February 1st, 2024, combined with an emphasis placed on that date in a past interview, may have misled individuals into believing the deadline was extended. However, recognizing the overarching principle of fairness and the potential for genuine misunderstanding among the public officials due to this miscommunication, a decision has been made to cease prosecutions of those who filed by the misstated deadline.”
In a January press release, the DPP had reiterated that public officials who did not file their declaration had until January 26 before charges would be laid on February 1.
In keeping with that mandate, the DPP had disclosed the names of those persons who were expected to be charged for failing to file.
Those persons were across various sectors in both St. Kitts and Nevis.
“The Federal Integrity Commission has informed this office that, as of the 1st of February 2024, seven of the eight public officials previously listed as defaulters have now complied by submitting their mandatory declarations,” noted DPP Smith.
The DPP added: “This includes the actual Deputy Chair of NEMA, who had been incorrectly identified as Oureika Petty in a prior release. Additionally, the public official who was previously granted an extension on compassionate grounds has filed. The Magistrate has not filed and, consequently, his case will proceed as indicated previously. The appointment of a special magistrate to oversee this matter is pending, alongside the resolution of the legal position concerning two public officials who have resigned.”
With the embarrassment on several fronts landing both the DPP’s Office and the Integrity Commission in the public’s domain, a number of measures have been taken for procedural safeguard.
“To prevent future discrepancies and ensure the accurate enforcement of the Integrity in Public Life Act, discussions with the Honourable Attorney General Garth Wilkin have resulted in a new procedural safeguard. Going forward, upon identification of potential defaulters, each individual will receive a formal inquiry to justify their non-compliance within 10 working days of the date of the correspondence, before any prosecution action is initiated,” Smith said.
He noted that there is consideration for legislative implementation, along with broader discussions on improving the Act's effectiveness.
Public officials who fall under the Integrity in Public Life Act now have up to the end of April to file their declarations.