Friday, June 16, 2017
By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government has set a June 30 deadline for former and sitting parliamentarians to file disclosures or face prosecution, according to Press Secretary Anthony Newbold.
In a recent interview with The Tribune, the veteran journalist said the government has instructed Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) Chairman Myles Laroda to send his finalised list of delinquent parliamentarians to the Attorney General by Monday, July 3.
Last month, Mr Laroda would not disclose the list of delinquent politicians but noted that they included members of both the former governing party, the Progressive Liberal Party, and the Free National Movement, which served as the Official Opposition until the May 10 general election.
According to The Tribune's records, the deadline being imposed by the Minnis administration could affect more than 20 present and current members of parliament.
Present and former parliamentarians and senators, along with senior public officers, are required to submit their disclosures to the PDC by March each year.
The law specifies that persons in breach could face a fine of $10,000, or two years in prison, or both, or confiscation of land if land is involved.
On Wednesday, Minister of State for Legal Affairs Elsworth Johnson suggested that the government amend the Public Disclosure Act to broaden the scope to include campaign finance reform and to make provision for direct referral to an independent prosecutor.
Mr Johnson, former President of the Bahamas Bar Association, argued that the premise of public disclosures are necessary to keep parliamentarians and public officials "accountable".
He went on to commend both Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis and Attorney General Carl Bethel on their efforts to crack down on delinquent disclosures since coming to office.
During the Christie administration's tenure, the PDC expressed concern over the widespread failure of officials to comply with legislation.
In 2014, former Prime Minister Perry Christie addressed the matter in the House of Assembly, urging members to prioritise submissions.
At the time of his plea, 11 of 38 MPs could not confirm to The Tribune whether they had filed all of their annual disclosures.
Moreover, at least nine government ministers had not filed their public disclosures for 2014 as mandated by law, according to their own admissions.