Governor John Rankin has urged residents to view the Register of Interests for members of the House of Assembly (HOA); disclosing that he inspected the register and paid the relevant fee to do so on January 17.
“I am most grateful to the Registrar for her assistance in this matter. Although I cannot under the present law reproduce what I saw, I would encourage members of the public to similarly inspect the register in accordance with their right under the Register of Interests (Amendment) Act 2022,” Governor Rankin said.
Under Section 9 of the Act, the Registrar shall on written request make the Register available for public inspection during normal working hours. Under the Act, the person inspecting the register must pay a $15 fee for each member of HOA he/she wishes to inspect. The person inspecting the register also cannot make a copy or take photographs of any matter contained in the register.
The Governor has made clear that the amendments made by the HOA means this Act severely restrains the degree of public access to the Register and runs counter to the principle of transparency and the intent underlying the commitment made by the government.
In the Framework for Implementation of the Commission of Inquiry
) report, the House of Assembly agreed to make the register public.
While he ultimately assented to the Act months after it was passed, the Governor said this was only being done with the clear expectation that the House of Assembly will return to this subject within one year.
According to Governor Rankin, this is because of the commitment by lawmakers to design and develop a new system for the registration of interests to cover both elected and public officials.
This commitment received much pushback from public servants after they were belatedly made aware that their financial interests were being made public. Lawmakers later decided to exclude this component from the new Act.
The Governor said the revised system should be based on international best practices, accompanied by an implementation plan inclusive of costs for the introduction and maintenance of the new system.
Rankin is expected to report on the progress of this matter in his next quarterly report this month.