In a recent statement in the House of Assembly (HOA), Premier Wheatley noted that draft Cabinet papers have been prepared to facilitate the Complaints Commissioner reporting annually to the HOA’s Standing Finance Committee (SFC).
Dr Wheatley said this is being done to “set out the extent to which there has been a response to the Commissioner’s criticisms and recommendations, and also to establish a reporting structure for the Commissioner to report to the Governor and Deputy Governor.”
The mechanism will also incorporate recommended response times to these complaints, the Premier added.
The new measures announced are in keeping with Recommendation 45 of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) report and were scheduled to be implemented by July 31, the Premier said.
In the meantime, COI Commisssioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom said in his report that the move would give the House or Committee an opportunity to scrutinise the report and raise questions about it as part of the budget process.
In their testimony before the COI, both Erica Smith-Penn and Sheila Brathwaite — the current Complaints Commissioner and her predecessor — explained that, if they had a suspicion of corruption during one of their investigations, in practice they would either refered it to the Governor (and then to the Auditor General who has more investigative powers) or refer it directly to the relevant criminal authorities.
It was noted however, that the Complaints Commissioner can only make recommendations, and Brathwaite considered that recommendations were ignored in “at least 50 per cent of the cases”.
She suggested that consideration should be given to the Complaints Commissioner having the power to require public officers to adopt recommendations made.
The former Complaints Commissioner did not regard the ability to lay a special report before the HOA as an effective means of enforcement.
Both women favoured the setting up of a Standing Committee of the HOA to which the Complaints Commissioner’s reports would be sent and which had powers to require compliance.
Currently, the Commissioner is required to send a copy of a report to the relevant government department or public body, the Governor, and each member of the Cabinet.
However, the COI report pointed out that, in practice, it is not sent to each Cabinet member but only to the Premier. A draft document is also sent to the relevant Minister whose subject area is under scrutiny before the report is finalised.