Integrity Commission wants 'gag order' removed

Greg Christie, Marlene Malahoo Forte and Julian Robinson
The Integrity Commission has reiterated its call for the removal of the so-called 'gag order' on the organisation. 
Greg Christie, the commission's executive director, made the latest call at Thursday afternoon's meeting of the Integrity Commission Oversight Committee, which is tasked with reviewing the agency's functions.
Under Section 56 of the Integrity Commission Act, the anti-corruption body is not able to make any announcement that it has commenced an investigation or provide an update on an ongoing investigation. 
But Mr. Christie says the gag clause does not augur well for building public trust and confidence.  
"I understand the pros and the cons and the justifications for either side. In the countries that do allow comment or announcement of investigations, it's justified on a public policy basis, in the sense that you're talking about matters that involve conduct of public officials." 
He pointed out that in the United Kingdom, for instance, the Serious Fraud Office - which is that country's equivalent of Jamaica's Integrity Commission - is allowed to make announcements with respect to investigations. 
However, Integrity Commission Oversight Committee member Marlene Malahoo Forte said the committee will have to thoroughly and carefully consider the recommendation to remove the gag order.
She argued that the commission's reasons for wanting the prohibition lifted will have to be balanced against "the perceived harm" that Parliament felt would be done "in an irreparable way" if public statements are made.
But committee member Julian Robinson agreed with Mr. Christie that the Integrity Commission should be able to inform the public whether it is investigating a matter. 
Still, he took issue with a suggested clause that said comments could be allowed "on aspects of an ongoing investigation as deemed necessary and appropriate."
"We may have conservative persons who will act in a particular way. You may have other people who take the view that they should talk every week. I want that discretion removed. So...the compromise for me would be, you can comment on initiation and the only other comment you could make publicly would be around the time-frame for completion, but nothing on the content of the investigation," he suggested. 

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