Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Democratic Reform of Parliament and Empowerment of Public Servants- Another Core Principle Explained

Changes will be made, as may be necessary, to ensure that Parliament meets as a minimum for 3 days in every month except in December, August and the month on which Easter falls, during which months Parliament shall be in vacation.

A Permanent Parliamentary Committee of backbenchers (including crossbenchers and members of the opposition) will be established. It will meet a minimum of 1 day every month except in the months that Parliament does not meet, but otherwise as it considers necessary, for the efficient disposal of its business. The business of this will be to act as the equivalent committees, including Select Committees, of the House of Commons. 

This committee will examine matters in detail.  These will include government policy, proposed new laws, and any wider topics that concern the government and Gibraltar, including the economy.  It will check on the work of government departments and economic affairs.  It will hold the executive arm of government and the public administration to public account.

The committee shall have power to summons the Chief Minister, any Minister, and Civil Servant or any other person and question them on any matter relevant to the its business. It shall be constituted as closely as possible to reflect proportionally the make-up of Parliament. The committee shall have all powers of compulsion and enforcement over witnesses as a court of law, all evidence shall be taken and oath and all laws of perjury and contempt shall apply.

GBC TV and radio will be permitted to broadcast meetings of Parliament and this committee live.

The civil and public service, including authorities, commissions and other quasi-governmental entities will be empowered.  They will be freed of centralised (Chief Minister) control.  In return they must be responsible and accountable for their actions and accept such responsibility and accountability.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Is it All Change in the GSLP?

On Friday the public learnt that Joe Bossano, the dominant force in politics, the left wing and in the GSLP, would be stepping down as leader of the GSLP. What is extraordinary is that there has been little or no analysis of the effect this will or may have on politics generally in Gibraltar. I imagine there will be over the next days. My opinion is that it will be a seismic event only if this event is a precursor to political change within the GSLP and not just a change of identity of the leader.

The change of identity of leadership will have some effect in itself, but I believe, also, that much needed more fundamental political change will follow if Fabian Picardo is elected as the leader of the GSLP. If such change does not follow, a unique opportunity for Gibraltar politics will have been missed. It is this challenge that will mark out Fabian as a leader. He will not have much time to implement this change in the GSLP  before the next election. It is a change that he must achieve in order to consolidate the lead that the GSLP have in opinion polls and convert it into a win at the election.

The fact that Joe is bowing out as leader alone has its effect. One would hope, for example, that the GSD will now look to the future by participating in real politics rather than the negative politics of fear that they have wheeled out at every past election. The person that the GSD view as the pariah who allowed (and for some encouraged) the fast launch culture (but who in reality laid the economic foundations on which the GSD government has built Gibraltar's economy) is gone. Let that fear factor, whether you believe it or not, at last stop warping our democracy. Let rational analysis of policies take over from the destructive politics of personality. It is time for our politicians to allow the restricted form of democracy that exists in Gibraltar to work, as best it can, by resorting to proper political argument rather than appealing to the base emotion of fear in people.

Fabian Picardo will have much of the responsibility to ensure that this happens. He has to lay the ground upon which the GSLP will fight the next election. We know what the GSD will fight it on. It has told us in its recent party political broadcasts. The GSD has "given" us, rather than we have paid with our taxes, all the benefits and material assets that we enjoy. However, politics is not in what government's believe they have "given" us.

Politics is more in whether the decisions taken are good or bad decisions. Politics is not in how much tax has been recovered. Politics is in how and whether the right taxes are been levied, which incentivise economic activity, and on how these monies are spent. Politics is not in how an imperfect system is used by those temporarily in power to impose their will on voters. Politics is in how politicians develop and allow the electoral and parliamentary system to evolve and be improved for the benefit of the community.

If Fabian, as I believe and hope he will, takes the GSLP and so the election to political argument, the seismic change that has been presaged by Joe's departure as leader will be achieved. The electorate can and will be given a choice that will deliver real political and democratic change to Gibraltar. It will uncover the lack of ideological politics inherent in the GSD. It will discover the GSD for what it really is, an administration by one person and not a government. It will be indicative that administration will be returned to an accountable Civil Service that will administer Gibraltar under the Rule of Law. This is essential if real democracy is to be returned to Gibraltar. We will see if my hope is fulfilled over the next few months. Gibraltar needs such change.

Will the GSD rise to such a challenge by making changes? It needs to take a deep breath and seriously think about the changed scenario. If it were to do that and re-emphasise many past broken manifesto promises with guarantees that can be believed by the electorate, then it might redeem itself. It would also take politics to where I believe it should be. The improvement in Gibraltar would be palpable and vibrant were my hopes to become a reality. Unfortunately the history of politics in Gibraltar indicates that this will not happen ... oh well I will carry on trying anyway!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Accessibility to Fundamental Rights- The Fourth CIR Core Principle Explained

The Coalition for Reform considers that presently the means by which citizens can enforce their fundamental rights is difficult and too restricted. This arises from the need to apply to the Supreme Court of Gibraltar and the complication and cost associated with that procedure. The Coalition for Reform will create a new post of Commissioner of Fundamental Rights. The Judicial Services Commission will appoint him/her.  He/she must be an appropriately experienced lawyer. The Commissioner of Fundamental Rights will be provided with sufficient finance for her/him to establish an adequate secretariat.

The duty and responsibility of the Commissioner of Fundamental Rights will be to receive and investigate all complaints of breaches of Part 1 of the Gibraltar Constitution Order 2006 (2006 Constitution), which contains the fundamental rights.  He/she will publish an opinion of her/his findings.  The Commissioner of Fundamental Rights will also have power to investigate and issue an opinion of his/her own motion on any issue of concern on the subject of fundamental rights.

Within 3 months of the publication by the Commissioner of Fundamental Rights of his/her opinion on the subject of any complaint or of its own motion, the Government shall publish its policy statement on the relevant matter.  The statement will set out deadlines by which any breach of fundamental rights found to exist by the Commissioner of Fundamental Rights would be rectified. The Government must rectify by passing any necessary legislation or taking any corrective action within a period of 6 months from the publication of its policy statement.

In the event that the Government does not publish a policy statement or rectify any breach within the prescribed time limits, the Commission of Fundamental Rights will be obligated to commence proceedings before the Supreme Court, as permitted by section 16 of the 2006 Constitution, at the full cost and expense of the Government and without risk of an award of costs against it. The Supreme Court will be empowered to condemn the relevant Minister or Ministers personally in costs if it finds that non-compliance with the opinion of the Commissioner of Fundamental Rights has been by reason of his/her wilfulness, recklessness, gross negligence or purposeful breach.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Our Money Goes up in Smoke

If you want to get bad news out do it on a Friday.  This Friday was no exception. The news was that the Government had written off £5,000,000 in taxes and social security and £1,400,000 in rates, a total of £6,400,000 of public monies that have gone up in smoke. Undoubtedly write offs are a fact of life. No government can or should be criticised for having to write of an element of debt.  What I believe requires some analysis is the reason given and what requires some comment is the nature of some of the write offs, namely social security and PAYE.

The reason given is that the amounts are in the main due by companies that either have been liquidated, struck off or do not otherwise have the wherewithal to pay or self employed individuals who are no longer in Gibraltar.  The reality is that this reason simply analyses the final situation faced. It does not analyse the cause of the problem. It is important to analyse the cause to reduce the level of bad debt owed to government.

Businesses do not get into trouble overnight. It is a process that develops over time. There is little or no doubt that businesses will go down.   When businesses go down there will be bad debts owed not just to government but to other creditors.  The only way to reduce ultimate loss is to limit the amount of credit that businesses are allowed. It is in the process and efficiency of collection that the solution lies. It is important to ensure that no business is allowed to go into such large arrears that the ability to pay is compromised. Inability to pay debts as they fall due is the main ground for bankruptcy.

Permitting growth of debt when dealing with social security and PAYE is the most unconscionable of acts. This is money due in part, not by the business, but by the employees of that business. It has consequences on the employees. It is essential that a culture of prompt payment is instilled. There is no excuse for any delay. Non-payment at due dates give rise to criminality. Businesses should be made fully aware of the consequences. This is achieved by an efficient and unyielding collection system with immediate consequences flowing from non-payment.

The final consequence to a business, other than potentially criminal prosecution in some situations, of non-payment is usually bankruptcy. There is an argument to say that this should be avoided if possible to safeguard, for example employment. This argument has some force if there are facts and circumstances that are indicative of a probability that a business can trade itself out of a short term cash flow problem. In most other eventualities allowing a failed business to continue trading only achieves an aggravation. It results in increased write offs in the end. It also permits unfair competition in the market place, thus increasing the chances of other businesses getting into financial difficulties, which in turn also leads to increased write offs. Ridding an economy of failed businesses is curative for the economy as a whole.

Crticising for past occurrences and write offs is easy. The reality is that what has happened has happened already and whatever action needs to be taken now, including write offs, has to be taken. The write offs that we have been told off will not be the last. There will be more. What needs to happen is that steps are taken to reduce the risk of write offs and so reduce the loss to the public purse. There are clear signs that the present GSD government are tackling this issue head on. It should be supported and not criticised in this endeavour.

Making political capital of any steps taken in achieving what is a laudable aim is opportunistic, of no benefit to the wider community and counter-productive, not least, because those in opposition today may need to be doing exactly the same in government tomorrow. Politics is about doing what is for the better good of the community, not for selfish short term electoral gain. On occasions opposing political parties criticise in manner that is not for the greater good of all, perhaps it is time for this type of politics to come to an end.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Spain, Relations with the UK and Decolonisation, Another CIR Core Principle Explained

The 2006 Constitution has established Gibraltar’s constitutional status for the foreseeable future.  It has been adopted by referendum.  CIR recognizes that the adoption of the 2006 Constitution came about because it was “miss-sold”.  The GSD promoted it as an act of self-determination, which so clearly it was not.  The Chief Minister now seems to accept this conclusion, having suggested an Andorra style constitution.

Irrespective of this misrepresentation, presently, it is pointless to pursue further advances on Gibraltar’s status as established by the 2006 Constitution.  The adoption of the 2006 Constitution has put the issues of Gibraltar’s constitutional status and, also, of Gibraltar’s international status to bed for at least two generations.  The UK is unlikely to reopen it earlier, as has been shown, by history, to be the reality.

CIR’s view on Gibraltar’s international status is based on the statement, contained in the Despatch to the 2006 Constitution to the effect that  “… independence is only an option with Spain’s consent”.  The inclusion of this statement should never have been permitted by Gibraltar. However, one is forced to recognise the reality of and political force of this statement, whilst not accepting its effect. 

Presently, it is not a useful or productive political venture to seek any change to Gibraltar’s international status and, consequently, a change in its constitutional relationship with the UK, taking into account:
  •     That the view of the people of Gibraltar and that of the UK is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future;

  •    The view of the people of Gibraltar is that they do not want a change to British sovereignty, as expressed in referenda;

  •     The UK’s statement in the Despatch, which is a clear expression of the UK’s view that achieving independence, which in the end analysis is the only step left for Gibraltar to take, is not envisaged by them at present; and

  •     That, consequently, pursuing such a policy toward achieving independence, presently, will serve simply to weaken and strain Gibraltar’s relations with the UK, which CIR consider to be counterproductive and contrary to the interests of Gibraltar and the wishes of its people.
CIR considers that it is important to strive for and positively promote good relations with Spain, as a separate neighbouring state and co-member of the European Union.  CIR will not tolerate and will resist any hostility displayed by Spain against Gibraltar.  CIR will reject and will resist any attempts by Spain to achieve any advance by any means or in any forum of its claim to the sovereignty of Gibraltar.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Politics, Courts, Perceptions and Independence

I have no doubt whatsoever that the judiciary is independent of the influence of the Government. However, the Government does not help that perception. I refer to Thursday's ceremony at which the Minister for Justice and not to be outdone, the Chief Minister (why?), opened the still largely unfinished Court building. The need for both to do it is simply evidence of the personality of at least one of them.

The judiciary is one area of government in which, not only is its independence fundamental to democracy, but in which perception plays a massively important role. There are constant references in judgments to the  importance of perceptions in the administration of law and justice, especially when courts are exercising their jurisdiction to review administrative actions by the executive arm of government or the constitutional validity of laws. That the invitation to the opening came from a minister at all, and on this occasion from two ministers, one the Chief Minister,  both of who took centre stage at the ceremony, does nothing to assist perceptions of independence.

The judicial system is an arm of government. It is financed by the executive with the consent (not oversight as there is no separation of powers) , through legislation, of the legislature. This makes these public gestures and ceremonies even more insidious. Public events become, not just a reminder of where power lies, but palpable evidence of power. What should have happened is that the court service should have been and be adequately funded. It, without interference beyond the provision of funding, should take all decisions as to how best to deliver an efficient dispute resolution service, with of course, guidance, from the other arms of government, as to what any tranches of money is being provided for.

There is no doubt at all that there has been for years a great need for better court and attendant office and administrative facilities. There is no doubt that what is in the process of being delivered is a massive improvement, not only in physical reforms, like the enhanced court building, but also in the legislative reforms that the Minister for Justice is engaged in undertaking and has been announcing for some time.

All these improvements are down to the tireless efforts of the Hon. Daniel Feetham, Minister for Justice. He is to be congratulated for his singleminded pursuit of achievement within his ministry and for his industry in ensuring these huge improvements are delivered.  Many a minister could take a leaf out of his book. In the end the benefits of the individual achievements of ministers are gained by the GSD as a whole, thereby enhancing its electoral chances.

Unfortunately these benefits have been slightly overshadowed. On Thursday we had an overtly political act in our court house orchestrated entirely by politicians. This was unnecessary and undermined the dignity of independence. To make matters worse the impression has been given that the development of the court building has been completed, with statements like, this is a momentous day for the administration of justice, being made. The reality is that only a small part of the development has been completed; about two thirds remains to be done yet. Does that mean we will have more ceremonies Probably! What it does indicate is that Thursday's ceremony is susceptible to be seen as having been a huge political publicity stunt in what is election year.

How a physical building can be described as being momentous in the administration of justice is not easily understandable, save if human resources are to be improved. Otherwise it is just one of the steps required to achieve this aim. It is people that administer justice, not buildings. What it demonstrated was in fact that for decades the physical accommodation provided to those administering justice, despite years of protestation, had been woefully inadequate. The reality is that the judicial system is still the poor sibling of the three arms of government. It is still hugely lacking in human resources.

The delays experienced today in the administration of justice are unacceptable and not conducive to ensuring that the human rights of individuals are not infringed. For example, frequently people are sentenced for criminal offences having already served terms of imprisonment on remand beyond their date for consideration for parole. Delays are also not conducive to developing the finance centre. Users of the finance centre expect and demand quick and efficient access to courts to resolve disputes. We are told that this will be resolved in the short term.  Let us hope that these are not empty promises publicised for electoral consumption as were the past promises of electoral and parliamentary reforms.

The Minister for Justice said that the new courts assert  "... where we are as a prosperous and self-sufficient community". Again an overtly political statement in election year redolent with spin. The reality is not that. We are a community that for years has been prosperous and self-sufficient, yet it has only now, because of the efforts and vision of Daniel Feetham, started to provide the judiciary with the physical means to improve the delivery of justice. It is a matter of some shame that is, belatedly, being redeemed now and for which praise is due but only on the basis of the maxim  "better late than never".

All in all, praise for belated and much needed improvements but criticism because it comes at the expense, by fault of politicians and not judges,  of diminishing the perception of judicial independence on the altar of political opportunism and electoral advantage. Visual imagery plays a massive part in forming opinion. I fear the image of politicians treading into the realms of the judiciary, which should be and seen to be separately administered, to retain perceptions of independence, is not a positive step for Gibraltar.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Economy and the Public Debt - An Explanation of Another CIR Core Principle

On the economy there is no need to reinvent the wheel.  Gibraltar’s economy functions on the basis of well-known and established sectors.  These are, in essence, the port, tourism (including retail outlets), the finance and services sector and gaming.  Continued free flow of people across the border is a centrally important factor to sustain and achieve growth in the economy. The MOD is less and less important and less and less reliance should be placed on that source of revenue.

The Coalition for Reform recognises and accepts that both Parliament and the government play a crucial role in facilitating the legislative and administrative climate and environment to facilitate the growth of each sector.  The Coalition for Reform will continue the policies of previous administrations from time immemorial to sustain these sectors and to ensure growth.

The Coalition for Reform will ensure that the legislative, fiscal and regulatory environment remains an incentive for doing business in and from Gibraltar.  This will include a review of existing restrictive legislation, for example the repeal of the Trade Licensing Act, to encourage a freer and more entrepreneurial environment to do business.  The Coalition for Reform will encourage a reasonable balance between the needs of business and environmental considerations.

The Coalition for Reform recognise that all government revenues are received and must be applied for the benefit of citizens, as it best considers subject to systems in and out of parliament that allow for criticism and ensure accountability.  The Coalition for Reform will continue the funding of health services, government and low cost housing, public spaces, traffic solutions, sports, leisure and culture, education and training, heritage, law, order and civil protection, social services, social security and pensions.

The Coalition for Reform will prioritise various aspects of this expenditure:

a.      Assisting the needy, disadvantaged, impaired and the disabled by providing more focussed and tailor-made solutions to cater for specific situations of specific persons.  This will be achieved by creating a less rigid and more discretion based social services and social security system without taking away the incentive from those who can help themselves from helping themselves.

b.      Encouraging and promoting efficiency and savings.

c.      Employing more astute and incisive methods and systems to choose government contractors and suppliers.  The Coalition for Reform recognises that, often, the cheapest contractors and suppliers are often not the best option.  The cheapest often result, in the medium or longer term, to be the more expensive choice. 

The Coalition for Reform will cut out capital expenditure on grandiose non-essential schemes that result in the taxpayer incurring increased recurring annual expenditure.  Expensive and grandiose capital expenditure projects can lumber the citizens with substantially increased annual expenditure for years and years to the detriment of expenditure on more needed and deserving causes.

It is essential that expenditure be trimmed down.  Government borrowings are ballooning to unacceptably large sums.  When measured per capita the amounts owed by government on behalf of each individual is scarily high.  The consequences of a default are frightening both from what the UK can impose (the Turks & Caicos Islands example being the extreme) or, worse, how it can weaken Gibraltar in the face of the claim of sovereignty by Spain.

The Coalition for Reform would urge the employment of experts to undertake an in depth study of future long-term liabilities that will fall on government to assess affordability.  The experts would be asked to advise on steps that should or must be taken over time to avoid mortgaging future generations with the liabilities of today’s generations.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Silence is Golden for the GSD and GSLP?

Two weeks ago the Coalition for Reform's proposed Core Principles were published. A week ago the proposal to establish an Anti-Corruption Authority was explained more fully. The reaction from the GSD governing party and the GSLP opposition has been silence, why?  My intention over the next weeks is to carry on publishing explanations of each principle.  I would suggest that it would be very telling if they are all met with silence from these two parties. Alternatively, it would be a complement if, in their respective manifestos,  the issues were adopted with adaptations. This raises another question would including such references in their manifestos be enough?

One of the central philosophies of the Coalition for Reform's proposed Core Principles is to strive to make them so reasonable that any argument against introducing them becomes weak and spurious. The corollary of this is that any person or party aspiring to be elected should be clamouring to agree to the principles or an adaptation of them. If they do not agree to them or to some of them,  surely they would be quick to show how mistaken and misconceived they are and that their own policies are so much better?

None of the main parties have spoken, other than for the PDP. It has re-emphasised their own proposals for democracy, transparency and accountability, good for them, at least there is some hope that the issues are being taken seriously by some. The opposite seems to be true for the other parties. The GSD government have been conspicuous throughout 2011 for one thing, virtually absolute silence not just on this issue but on most issue. Its silence generally is  conspicuous but certainly it is so on the subject of the cessation of works in one of the main infrastructure projects in Gibraltar, the airport tunnel; no explanation of any depth has been forthcoming.  It is the rumours, once again, that are flying and being fueled by lack of information.

It may be that silence on core issues like democratic and electoral reforms and the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Authority (can anyone seriously oppose this suggestion?) is down to the GSD and GSLP not wanting to elevate and give credibility to the Coalition for Reform (CIR). If that is the reason shame on both of them.

This reason would be palpable evidence that they do not believe in democratic debate, accountability or transparency. It is evidence that that their main concern is to maintain their selfish electoral advantage to the detriment of what their true objective should be, namely working to improve Gibraltar. This is one more reason why I fervently believe that voters should vote for people and not parties at the next election, even if their ballot papers are a mishmash of  candidates from different parties. Let the elected members argue afterwards how they will form government, from amongst themselves, to deliver what is best for Gibraltar.

Let us briefly analyse where we stand on electoral and parliamentary reform.

The PDP set out its stall as long ago as 2006.  One can argue about and disagree on details but, to this party's credit, it does have a programme. Unfortunately it has not had the opportunity to implement it due to its electoral failures but neither has it acted in any way in an effort to push the Government and Opposition to take the issue up. Beyond publishing their policies, it seems to jealously and selfishly guard it as a policy that they have to distinguish them from the others. Is this the right attitude?

I would say not. I take the view that a political party, that has beneficial policies, has a duty to push the incumbent Government to take them up and implement them. It is for this reason that I have made clear from the very beginning that my ambition is not selfish but that, if  there is credible evidence that such reforms will be implemented by the existing parties,  then I would go away and not stand for election. My ambition is simple, to achieve democratic reforms for Gibraltar.

What we now know, thanks to that recent illuminating article by Brian Reyes in the Chronic, that a cross  party Parliamentary Committee was set up to look at such reforms. It met once and no more. It seems that the Opposition GSLP did not consider that any reforms are needed. In turn this gave the GSD an excuse not to pursue its own promised (in its manifesto) agenda to undertake any democratic reforms. These events are critical of both the GSD and the GSLP but more of the GSD.

More critical of the GSD because it is in Government and so it has the legislative power to give effect to the reforms that it promised in its manifesto. It has not delivered them. It is cynical for the GSD, which has never been stopped from implementing any policy by the views of the Opposition, to rely on the lack of cooperation from the GSLP Opposition as an excuse for not giving effect to one of its own promised policies. It is not enough for the GSD to, again, make the same promise in its manifesto for the next election. If the GSD is to be trusted it must take active and positive steps to implement democratic reforms prior to the next election.

The GSLP are in a slightly better place. Although it may be accused by the GSD of not having helped to advance democracy by cooperating on reforms, it has not had any ability to implement reforms, in any event, because it has not been in Government. The GSLP's problem is one of credibility, if it now promises reforms in its manifesto how will it convince the electorate that it will give effect to them? The change in leadership may help them achieve the credibility and trust they need but this is not the best way.

The best chance of promoting democratic reform, by either the GSD or the GSLP, is to vote for people (as opposed to parties) who are committed to improving democracy by reform. In each and every party there are such people, I know, they have individually told me so and the PDP has made its position public. I challenge them to make their individual positions known to the voting public and not to be held hostages by their respective parties in the belief that their individual electoral chances are enhanced by towing party lines. If none will "come out", well, then give some votes to the Coalition for Reform (CIR). It has at its core the desire and ambition to reform and improve democracy for the commonweal. If it gets a few candidates into Parliament, not only does their election give out a strong message but they can use their position as MPs to further this cause.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Proposal to Establish an Anti-Corruption Authority

This piece continues the process of explaining the Coalition for Reform's Core Principles.

Gibraltar is plagued constantly with rumours of corruption and bribery.  True, indifferent or false does not matter.  These rumours are destructive and give a negative image.  There is a need to deal with this situation for the benefit of the jurisdiction and of citizens.  Dealing with it will also avoid the complacency and resignation to this subject that is often seen and shown to be prevalent.

Gibraltar should strive to ensure and provide the means by which people, within and without Gibraltar, can be confident that its executive, administration and legislature adhere to internationally recognised standards of, governmental, administrative and parliamentary behaviour.  Recent events relating to MPs’ and Lords’ expenses in the UK Parliament are indicative of the need for constant vigilance and action even in that Parliament.

A lack of oversight and review of standards that need to be maintained by ministers, members of parliament, administrators and legislators can lead to standards dropping.  The consequence can be that acts, which are seen from the subjective perspective of the individuals or persons engaged in the particular act to be an acceptable standard of behaviour, if analysed objectively would be unacceptable. A downward spiral can ensue if there is no objective overview.  The possibility of a spiral of this nature coming about in any sector of government in Gibraltar needs to be diminished. The Coalition for Reform believes that this can be achieved by the introduction of independent systems that are established to strive for the achievement of objective and not subjective standards.

Consequently, the Coalition for Reform proposes the establishment of an independent Anti-Corruption Authority.  The proposal is that the Judicial Services Commission will appoint the Anti-Corruption Authority.  This method of appointment will ensure the same independence for the Authority as is guaranteed by this Commission’s appointment of judges.  A lawyer and accountant would need to participate in the executive of the Authority. The executive would need to be carefully chosen to have the necessary independence, strength of character and disconnect from society so as to ensure its additional effectiveness, free from local partial influences. There is a precedent for this, for example, in the constitution of the Financial Services Commission.

The Coalition for Reform will promote a review of existing corruption and bribery laws and update these based on internationally accepted standards.  The reformed laws that will flow from this review will further define, prohibit and criminalise unacceptable behaviour and practices. The Coalition for Reform envisages that the Authority will receive confidential reports of breaches of these laws and investigate such reports.  It will also be empowered to investigate of its own volition any other relevant matters coming to its attention. The intention is that the Anti-Corruption Authority will be endowed with full powers of investigation and prosecution, subject to the Attorney General’s constitutional responsibility and power to finally decide on the prosecution of any case.