Draft Code of Conduct handed over to Prime Minister
– hopes to include it in Integrity Commission legislation
Government is hoping to have the long awaited Ministerial Code of Conduct drafted into the existing Integrity Commission legislation, but will await the advice of the Chief Parliamentary Council before taking this route.
The announcement was made on Monday, when Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo received the revised draft Code of Conduct from Minster of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman at Office of the Prime Minister.
Trotman, along with a small committee, was tasked with reviewing the draft code of conduct. The team which comprised two representatives of the Office of the Prime Minister, along with two lawyers from the Guyana Bar Association, met several times during May, examining best practices in places such as Tanzania and other African countries and several Caribbean countries, seeking to
ascertain their applicability to the Guyana scenario.
The Prime Minister, speaking to the media following the handing over, said Government felt the subject matter was critically important to the public and therefore moved to have a special committee set up by Minister Trotman.
“We are aware that all over the commonwealth where we belong, there is a great need for emphasis on persons in public life… The committee was set up to have the matter reopened for recommendation”, he said.
He said since the Integrity Commission Act provides for the declaration and justification of assets of persons who hold public offices, along with their spouses and children, the recommendation was made that the integrity legislation include the prescription for the Code of Conduct.
“So if you ask me a question about what will be done with this document, the answer will be that it will be sent to the parliamentary council for legal advice on whether these recommendations or draft code should be included in the integrity legislation that should be enforced as far as any infraction of the law is done”, the PM said.
According to the Ministry of the Presidency, the purpose of the Code of Conduct is to assist Ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs) and public office holders in the discharge of their obligations to their constituents and the public at large.
It provides guidance on the values – the moral qualities – that should govern the conduct of Ministers and MPs in discharging their parliamentary and public duties. It is also meant to reinforce public confidence in the way in which Ministers and public office holders perform those duties.
Ministers, by virtue of the Oath or Affirmation of allegiance taken when they are elected, have a duty to be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, according to law.
The Code states that public office holders also have a duty to uphold the law, including the general law against discrimination and sexual harassment, and to act with propriety on all occasions in accordance with the public trust and confidence placed in them. They also have a general duty to act in the interests of the nation as a whole and owe a special duty of care to their constituents, and citizens.
The Code of Conduct says that the acceptance of gifts and other forms of rewards worth more than $10,000 by Ministers, MPs and other public office holders in their official capacity shall be reported to the Integrity Commission. Ministers, MPs and public office holders should consider declining such gratuities if the acceptance of same could be perceived to have an effect on their objectivity and lead to complaints of bias or impropriety.
It also states that Ministers, MPs and public office holders should also avoid using their official position or transmitting any information made available to them in the course of their duties to benefit themselves, their relations or any other individuals with whom they are associated. They should avoid compromising themselves or their office and any action which may lead to an actual or perceived conflict of interest.
Failure to avoid or declare any conflict of interest may give rise to criticism of favouritism, abuse of authority or even allegations of corruption.
Furthermore it is meant to reinforce public confidence in the way in which Ministers and public office holders perform those duties.
Asked about the timeframe for the code to be incorporated into existing law, Nagamootoo said he could not say. However, he noted that all such information will become available following the review by the Chief Parliamentary Council.
Nagamootoo stressed that he was not very concerned about the timeframe, but rather the quality of the work.
“All these things dealing with law, is not only about timeframe, it has to do with the quality of what is put out. Step by step procedure must be followed to ensure credibility. In so doing, there will not be any accusations of nonconsultation of the draft. It has to go through another cycle of evaluation. So it is not so much dealing with timeline and deadline, but that people in the end will say that there is something that is both enforceable and has certain provisions by which leaders in public life are accountable”, Nagamootoo said.
Minister Trotman, who once held the responsibility for governance said the President and Prime Minister, hold all responsibility to set sanctions against Ministers.
The Code of Conduct is based on 10 principles – Accountability, Dignity, Diligence, Duty, Honour, Integrity, Loyalty, Objectivity, Responsibility, and Transparency – and is a Coalition Government manifesto promise.