Dear President Richards
Saturday, March 9 2013
The following is the Prime Minister’s letter to President George Maxwell Richards on the Integrity Commission
Re: Appointment of Members to the Integrity Commission of Trinidad and Tobago
I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated March 2012 which was brought to my attention yesterday and thank you for your proposals therein.
There can be no gainsaying that the Integrity Commission is a critical institution which carries out an important function in overseeing and regulating the conduct of public officials Trinidad and Tobago. Accordingly, it is imperative that every effort be made by all the relevant parties to ensure that the Commission is in a position to fulfill its constitutional mandate in a manner that inspires and instills public trust and confidence.
Given the critical role of this Commission which will have even greater significance as my Government moves decisively to introduce Procurement Legislation which may cater for the Presidential appointment of a Procurement Legislator and as well our contemplation of the creation of an Anti-Corruption Agency, it is my considered opinion that it may be more prudent and appropriate for the appointment of members of the Integrity Commission for a new term be left to the discretion of the new President, who is himself well versed in legal matters.
Regrettably, even as it emerged out of its embryonic stages, the stability of the Commission has been adversely affected by various challenges, particularly since 2009, when sitting Members of the Integrity Commission became embroiled in much public controversy, not the least of which has been internecine warfare acted out on the public stage.
Not surprisingly, the appointment of Commissioners has come under intense public scrutiny as a result of the number of resignations occasioned by embarrassing revelations concerning the candidate’s character or conduct on the Commission.
There has been grave public disquiet and concern about the process for the selection of Commissioners. It is necessary to rebuild and restore public confidence in the Integrity Commission. Experience has shown that serious mistakes have been made when new appointments are made in a rushed or hasty manner. Indeed, many have expressed the view that much of the damage done to the image and integrity of the Commission could have been avoided if proper background checks on prospective candidates had been made prior to appointment.
In this context, I note particularly that the term of office of the present Integrity Commission expires only three days before you demit office. Your Excellency will recall that in 2009 there was a circumstance when no new Integrity Commission was appointed upon the expiration of the tenure of the previous one and you assured the Nation, amidst manifest public anxiety and disquiet that “the selection of Members of the Commission should not be rushed”. I am sure your Excellency would not wish such appointments now, on the eve of a new President being sworn in, to cause undue media and public scrutiny, particularly at a time when you demit office after a decade of outstanding and distinguished service.
It is not unlikely that such precipitous appointments by you may be interpreted as lacking confidence in our new President, whose selection has been widely acclaimed.
In the circumstances, given the significant role of the Integrity Commission, great care and attention must attend the selection and appointment of the new members of the Commission later this month. To this end, it is imperative that comprehensive background and due diligence checks are conducted in relation to any person proposed as candidates. This is a process which is unlikely to be completed within the next ten days before His Excellency demits office and President-Elect Anthony Carmona assumes the duties of the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Your Excellency may therefore wish to consider whether it would not be more prudent and appropriate for the process of appointment of Members to be initiated or continued by President- Elect Carmona when he assumes office. The term of office of the Integrity Commission expires only three days before Your Excellency demits office on March 17, 2013.
I have no doubt that you will give President elect Justice Carmona wise counsel and guidance on this and other matters and I am satisfied that President-Elect Carmona will devote priority consideration to these appointments when he assumes office on March 18, 2013.
I thank you for allowing me to offer to you my careful and considered views on this matter which I am sure Your Excellency will properly contemplate. I look forward to hearing from you on the way forward.