She said Acting President Danny Montano can select new members of the commission while President George Maxwell Richards is out of the country and the President’s Office has not been tarnished by this entire saga which began last Friday when the commission was appointed.
However, Annisette-George could not say whether Prime Minister Patrick Manning consulted with Richards before the commissioners were appointed or knew that any of them were not qualified to serve as members of the Integrity Commission.
Charles resigned as chairman yesterday, a day after National Insurance Board (NIB) executive director Jeffrey Mc Farlane stepped down as deputy chairman. Last week, retired Justice Zainool Hosein also quit mere hours after he took the oath of office at President’s House last Friday.
Informed about Charles’ resignation during the post-Cabinet news conference at the Prime Minister’s Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Annisette-George replied: “He has? It is unfortunate what we have seen happen. A government supported by the PNM sees that integrity in public life is a basic fundamental and, therefore, we support the existence of an Integrity Commission which will administer the provisions of the Integrity in Public Life Act.”
Asked how Mc Farlane could have been appointed to the commission when he did not qualify under Section 4(5) of the Integrity Act which prevents a person in public life from serving as a commissioner, Annisette-George said: “I can’t say how Mr Mc Farlane or any other of the commissioners were appointed. What the Act provides is that His Excellency will do so after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The effect of that is really that His Excellency acts in his sole discretion.”
Mc Farlane is also a director at the Home Mortgage Bank and National Insurance Property Development Company.
Asked if Manning knew Mc Farlane was an unsuitable appointment given his directorships with these companies, Annisette-George said: “I can’t explain anything that I am not privy to. I don’t know whether the consultation took place.”
Manning told reporters on Wednesday that Government was consulted and “gave our views” on appointments to the commission when he was asked whether Government had erred in agreeing to Mc Farlane’s appointment.
Annisette-George said the President did not have to cut short his vacation overseas to appoint a new commission because Montano, as Acting President, is “vested with all the powers and all the responsibilities that go with the Office of the President.
“So I really don’t see there is a dilemma,” she added. Annisette-George explained one of the reasons why Government is amending the existing Integrity Act is because it prevents “deserving nationals” who want to serve as Integrity Commission members from doing so.
“The Act in its current configuration makes them feel as if they are villains and drives them away,” she said. The Integrity in Public Life Amendment Bill 2009 was passed in the House on Monday but its provisions will only become law when it is passed in the Senate next Tuesday.