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Public officials shouldn’t be accountable for some relatives’ interests

Public officials shouldn’t be accountable for some relatives’ interests

Third District Representative Julian Fraser said he wants to ensure that a particular clause in the government’s proposed Integrity in Public Life bill becomes the gold standard.
The clause in question states: “Where a person in public life is a member of the House of Assembly, that person shall — with regard to any matter being debated, or in relation to which he or she intends to ask a question which is a matter or question in which he or she/his or her spouse or dependent child has a personal interest — disclose that interest to the House of Assembly (HOA).”

Fraser argued that it was important that the words ‘dependent child’ be used in the clause.

He further suggested that the bill may be attempting to remedy some issues that emerged from the Commission of Inquiry (COI) about Register of Interests.

“There is no way you’re going to tell me that this legislation has nothing to do with a Commission of Inquiry,” Fraser said.

Currently, Register of Interest declarations are required to include those of the children of HOA members.

But Fraser questioned that law, arguing that it was not for public officials to know what interests their adult siblings and some other family members held.

“How can I make a declaration for a child who is not dependent, living under my roof? Who has been gone on their own for God knows how long?”

“Those terms hold when you are growing up in a single household as teenagers. Your brother or sister gets married and they move on. You don’t know anything about them,” Fraser said.

He continued: “You don’t know what company they own shares in, you don’t know what business interests they have, but yet they want to hold you responsible and claim that it’s a conflict of interest because you did business with company ‘Y’ and your brother is a shareholder in company ‘Y’.”

Fraser argued that legislators should make laws responsibly and in the reality of the society in which they live.

During previous hearings of the COI, current and past legislators were largely found to have been in breach of provisions of the Register of Interests Act that requires them to make annual declarations of their assets by a specified time.

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