If Grenada’s Commission for Integrity in Public Life does not voluntarily open an investigation into certain appointments within the Ministry of Finance within two weeks, the body can expect a formal complaint to do so.
According to former Attorney General, Cajeton Hood, the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr Keith Mitchell is in breach of the Integrity Act and he wants the Commission to do its job.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Hood called on the Anande Trotman-Joseph commission to launch investigations into the appointment of Dr Mitchell’s son, Olinga Mitchell, to serve as legal advisor in the Ministry where the Prime Minister is directly in charge.
The attorney is also calling for the body to investigate what he said, is the appointment of other public officers with close, personal connection to the Prime Minister without giving any specific names.
“I take strong issue with certain appointments in the Ministry of Finance. I take issue with the fact that family members are being appointed in the Ministry of Finance and I am talking about members of the family of the Minister of Finance”, he said. “There is an actual conflict,” Hood told reporters at the press conference.
Referring to the appointment of the Prime Minister’s son to work directly under him, Hood said, “it is an appointment that ought not to have taken place and should be terminated”. “I think it’s improper, it is a violation of the Code of Conduct”, he remarked.
Hood pointed out that there have been other appointments within the Ministry of Finance of persons connected to the Prime Minister in a personal nature, which he called, “an impediment to the conduct of the nation’s business”.
He noted that the Code of Conduct, in Part 3 (1) says, “A conflict of interest arises from a situation in which a person in public life has a private interest which is such as to influence or appear to influence the impartial or objective performance of his or her official duties”. The attorney is adamant that there is blatant conflict.
“We complain about foreigners who come to our country and how they treat our young people, in a working relationship and the general public knows what I am talking about. We complain about these relationships. We cannot perpetrate them in the public service”.
The Code further states “private interests include any advantage to himself or herself, to his or her family, close relatives, friends or persons and organisations to which he or she has had business or potential relations. It also includes any liabilities, whether financial or work relating thereto”.
Hood called for standards to be set. “As controversial as this may seem, I am saying we have to set standards for our country. If we do not set a precedent now, what happens later on will be even worse.” “I will file a complaint according to the Act (Integrity in Public Life), but I am asking them (The Commission), to follow their precedent and open an investigation without a complaint”.
The Commission has maintained that its powers under the Act allows for an investigation to be launched without a complaint from any specific person.
Attorney Hood said: “The Integrity Commission went public and stated that they can launch an investigation of their own initiative into things that they believe are in violation of the Integrity in Public Life Act.They have spent thousands of taxpayers’ money to defend that position in court so I am calling upon the Integrity Commission now to investigate that situation in the Ministry of Finance. I am going to give the Integrity Commission two weeks to do it and if they don’t I am going to make an official complaint”.
Following the 2008 General Election, Dr Mitchell’s New National Party, while in opposition, raised objection to the appointment of the wife of then Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, to the post of Chief Executive Officer, to the Public Service Commission, calling it a conflict of interest.
Hood indicated that Thomas had already been a long-standing public officer at the time, unlike the appointment of the junior Mitchell under his father’s watch.
Attorney Hood, is also involved in the Ruel Edwards matter against the Integrity Commission in which the former Chief Executive Officer of the state-owned Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB) is at the centre of an investigation into alleged wrong doing at the institution.