Man on a mission: Alex Scott has called for public and all-party support for his draft anti-corruption act. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Man on a mission: Alex Scott has called for public and all-party support for his draft anti-corruption act. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
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FRIDAY, JANUARY 11: Former PLP Premier Alex Scott today calls on the leaders of both the OBA and PLP to throw their weight behind his plan for an Untouchables-style anti-corruption team.

Mr Scott has prepared a draft act highlighting the need to set up an independent, five-strong commission to keep the island’s corridors of power free from corruption.

The commission would also have the power to investigate people and bodies outside of Government suspected of trying to bribe or corrupt elected members or officials. It would also protect whistle-blowers.

In an open letter to drum up public support, he says: “My proposal of this Act is non-partisan. If enacted, a Public Integrity Act will increase public confidence in Government, make clear the duty of every public office holder, provide reporting duties, investigative powers and provide criminal sanctions for those misusing their position of trust or attempting to corrupt our -Government officials.”

Extra confidence

Mr Scott praised efforts by ex-Premier Paula Cox to put good governance legislation in place — but said his act would give the public extra confidence, even if it was never needed.

Mr Scott envisages an Anti-Corruption -Commission staffed by appointees chosen by the Governor after consultation with the Premier and Opposition Leader: “Bermuda will benefit,” he says, “from an effective legislative barrier to misapplication of public funds and/or payments of inducements in one form or another.”

 


A new Anti-Corruption Commission would keep the island’s corridors of power clean — and improve public confidence in Government, says ex-PLP Premier Alex Scott.

Mr Scott has drawn up a draft act and called for the island to unite behind it and get in on the statute books. Political veteran Mr Scott — who retired as an MP before the last election — has also asked OBA Premier Craig Cannonier and PLP leader Marc Bean to join forces to pilot the bill through the House of Assembly.

Mr Scott’s bill aims to set up an independent, Untouchables-style five-strong team to probe allegations of corruption in the corridors of power.

He said: “If the new Parliament were to debate and pass this, it would give the public the comfort they need because this legislation has a primary focus – the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Commission and that commission would be independently established, independent of Cabinet and Parliament and it would report in a timely fashion to Parliament.

Funding

“It would be funded by Parliament but act independently of it, for obvious reasons.

“Like the Ombudsman — who has a limited brief — the Commission would be empowered to act on any allegation about Government, a member of Government or member of the police service that they felt fell short of the standards of good governance.”

Mr Scott added that the Commission would also have the power to investigate individuals, companies or other groups outside Government on allegations of attempting to corrupt Ministers, MPs or Civil Servants – whether inside Bermuda or overseas. It could also look at electoral campaign contributions and could delve back into history to investigate ‘cold cases’ if that was justified. Mr Scott added that the possible introduction of casinos into Bermuda — with the risk of money-laundering or other criminal activity — made the need for new legislation even more urgent.

Mr Scott said his interest in the issue was sparked because his appointment as Premier in 2003 coincided with a major UN declaration on anti-corruption.

And an earlier scandal over the running of the Bermuda Housing Corporation, which ended in 2006 with an eight year jail term for BHC property officer Terrence Smith on 42 charges of defrauding the public body out of $1.2 million over several years had also stiffened his resolve to tackle corruption.

Mr Scott added he had been at the helm when the office of Ombudsman was created and the Public Access to Information (PATI) drive was launched.

He said: “The anti-corruption bill fitted in with these initiatives I identified; my view going into office — and now — is that the most effective form of governance is to focus on institutionalizing change.

“By that I mean we put in place legislative initiatives which can take root and those who follow after can amend and adapt — but the initial legislative action is the basis for that focus.

“All these initiatives have one important factor in common — the notion of empowering the electorate.”

Mr Scott added that he had canvassed for son Lawrence in last December’s General Election campaign when he stood in his father’s Warwick South East seat and had been struck  by the number of the people who felt that “all is not well in Government.”
He said: “People may think that Government members may or may not be benefiting, rightly or wrongly, from the office they hold. But that by no means makes it a fact that there is illegal behaviour in Government.

“But if it is a perception, for that person, that group, it becomes a reality, whether it is actually a reality or not.”

And he stressed that he had not created the bill because he thought there was a problem with corruption — but to ensure the risk is minimized in the future. Mr Scott said: “This is not Alex Scott trying to fool Parliament into putting in place anti-corruption laws which will drop a name, a group or an entity and to snag them with this Act.” He added the Commission would also carry out its work in private to avoid the risk of tainting innocent people with allegations of corruption: “The only time they would act in public would be when they submitted documents and evidence to Supreme Court.”

Mr Scott — who was Premier from 2003 to 2007 — said he had done the groundwork while in office, but it was not completed because he was replaced by Dr Ewart Brown as Premier in a coup. He added: “It’s a very comprehensive draft and touches on areas where the public seeks comfort on the good conduct of their Parliamentarians and Civil Servants.”

And he pointed out that around a third of the latest intake of MPs were new to the job. Mr Scott said: “There is no better window of opportunity – it will be providing the Government of the day and the Opposition the opportunity to put to rest and put to bed any notion that our Parliament is less than stellar and less than above reproach. It’s a clean slate for the new Government and the Opposition. And the more sophisticated our society and economy becomes, the more we need this type of legislation in place — but it doesn’t suggest there are anything less than honourable men and women serving at all levels. What it provides is protection.”