Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding has charged that the provision in the Corruption Prevention Act dealing with illicit enrichment has been underutilised.
Last week, Golding told a joint select committee of Parliament deliberating on the Integrity Commission Act that illicit enrichment is a very powerful tool in the Corruption Prevention Act, which has not been adequately used in Jamaica.
“It has been used in relatively minor cases – there have been a couple of successful prosecutions under it, but for relatively small transactional amounts,” said Golding.
At the same time, Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith wants her colleague lawmakers to consider incorporating the definition of ‘corruption’ from the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Act 2008, into the Integrity Commission Act.
Johnson Smith expressed reservations about transporting the current definitions in the Corruption Prevention Act to the National Integrity Act at a meeting of a joint select committee of Parliament last Wednesday.
She is also suggesting that the definition of ‘advantage’ in the Sierra Leone law be considered with a view to placing it in the National Integrity Act, which is now before a joint select committee of Parliament.
“This definition (of corruption) under the Corruption Prevention Act appears to be wanting because of the failure of several offences to fall within it,” she said.
The opposition senator queried: “Is it that we want a definition of corruption which allows nepotism?”
“If it is that we are seeking to strengthen the act, then what we should be seeking to look at more fundamentally is how corrupt practices are defined,” she insisted.
She suggested that Jamaica should take a careful look at how corruption is defined under the anti-corruption law of 2008 in Sierra Leone, which, she said, would take Jamaica to another level of fighting corruption.
Golding, who is chairman of the joint select committee reviewing the bill, said he had received no complaint that the definition of corruption in the Corruption Prevention Act is deficient.
On the question of broadening the definition of corruption in the Integrity Commission Act, National Security Minister Peter Bunting sounded a note of caution, pointing out that in 2011 members of the House of Representatives rejected the Special Prosecutor Bill, which had similar provisions to those set out in the Corruption Prevention Act.
He said the trend in the Lower House was to “water down those offences – not to strengthen them”.
Bunting said he was satisfied with the offences in the Corruption Prevention Act.
Golding asked the technical personnel, comprising government lawyers, to provide the committee with a comparison of the definitions in the Corruption Prevention Act around acts of corruption and advantage and the equivalent in the Sierra Leone legislation.
He said if there were glaring gaps or deficiencies in the Corruption Prevention Act that the Sierra Leone anti-corruption law covers, the committee would deliberate on it.
Meanwhile, committee member Senator Alexander Williams commented on a recent ruling by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn in the Shernette Haughton nepotism matter that was referred to the DPP by the contractor general.
The contractor general had accused Haughton of nepotism during her 2012-2014 tenure as chairman of the Hanover Parish Council.
According to Williams, there is a common-law offence called misconduct in public office, otherwise called misfeasance. “I do have a little disquiet about it too, that there is such a common-law offence, which is appropriate where there is no statutory offence to pith it. It would be nice if we had some rigour to the debate as to why that particular offence was not brought into play.”
Llewellyn had indicated that there was no criminal offence called nepotism and recommended that the councillor should face “strong administrative action or sanctions”.
She stressed that although the evidence of nepotism is overwhelming, more would have been needed to bring criminal charges against the councillor.