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Willock breaches Register of Interests Act but claims otherwise

Willock breaches Register of Interests Act but claims otherwise

Despite his many protestations and bombastic claims to the contrary, House Speaker Julian Willock - like several other past and present members of the House of Assembly (HOA) - was found to be in breach of the Register of Interests Act that requires members to declare the businesses and properties they own or are party to.

In his first appearance before the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Friday, Willock repeatedly interrupted the flow of questions and claimed not to recall several elements of his various declarations of interest.

At one stage, Willock told the COI that he was not in breach of the Act and was in a hurry to end his engagement with the COI so neither party’s time was wasted.

Asked early on by COI attorney, Bilal Rawat, whether he had a view on whether compliance with the legislation fell on him or with someone else, Willock responded by saying repeatedly, “I have complied with the Register of Interests Act.”

Early in his evidence, Willock interrupted the questioning by saying: “I don’t want to sound a little assertive or not having the highest respect for this process and you, Mr Commissioner. But If I could just simply cut through the chase and say one thing. There were three filings [done] by myself. The first filing was done on time. The second one was late because I wrote the Registrar a letter, which I have — 12 March — simply saying to her that there was no change from the first time and she wrote back to say, no, according to the Act, I still have to fill it out. So, I filled out the second one which was not late because it satisfied the three-month period and then the third filing was on time.”

“So, for the record, Mr Commissioner,” Willock added, “the Speaker’s declarations have never been late.”

His assertions were later revealed to be uninformed, inaccurate, and misleading.

Through further questioning, it was discovered that he was, in fact, in breach of both Section (3) and Section (7) of the Act. Section (3) effectively requires HOA members to make their declarations into the Register the day they are sworn in and on the anniversary of that date every year thereafter. Section (7) allows for a three-month grace period to make those declarations. Willock breached both sections having submitted his declarations past the prescribed deadlines.

The Speaker later acknowledged and confirmed that several elements of his declarations of interest were inaccurate.

Seeming distrust of documents

In several instances, the Speaker claimed not to have any of the documents that attorney Rawat referred to during questioning. He suggested in those instances that he would have to visit his office and retrieve his records to confirm the particulars brought to his attention as being inaccurate or those that did not comport with his recollection.

“Ok, that’s your version,” Willock said while addressing the Commissioner of Inquiry. “You have presented me with stuff I am unable at this time to verify this stuff that you have presented me with so I cannot sit here and say that there was a breach,” he said when told that his first declaration of interest breached Section (3) of the Act.

Several additional breaches were brought to his attention that received similar responses from the Speaker.

For several items on his declaration of interests, Willock told the COI that it was his secretary who filled out his declaration forms, claiming he only sat with her and offered responses to the questions for her to enter.

Since Willock seemingly distrusted the documents bearing his signature — which the COI presented to him for ease of reference, he was given till 4 pm on Monday, June 21 to write to the Commissioner and verify his breaches.


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