Wed | May 31, 2023

‘It’s not right’

Legislators caution colleague after hinting that IC employee could harbour political bias

Published:Thursday | March 30, 2023 | 1:17 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

Some members of the Integrity Commission (IC) Oversight Committee on Thursday rushed to the defence of an employee of the anti-corruption body after controversial government lawmaker Everald Warmington accused him of being politically exposed.

The St Catherine South Western member of parliament first asked IC Executive Director Greg Christie whether the body was apolitical.

“The Integrity Commission is expected to be impartial, unbiased, and above politics. Is that the case currently?” he asked.

In a succinct response, Christie said: “Absolutely.”

Warmington then asked Christie whether he was politically exposed.

“Let me say something to you, … I have never voted,” a seemingly peeved Christie responded.

“It says that Mr Ryan Evans, director of corruption prevention, is one of the members of your team. What is said is that he was employed to Dr Peter Phillips in a political capacity as advisor,” Warmington declared.

Christie hit back, saying that Warmington was asking about the political persuasion of a “particular person, and that is not my business”.

With decibel levels peaking, Warmington continued: “Then why employ him if he is involved politically? You say there is no political bias there. He was employed to Dr Peter Phillips as a political advisor and it is right here in front of me.”

However, committee member Julian Robinson intervened, arguing that from Evans’ job description, he had nothing to do with any of the reports that had been tabled. He cautioned against the claims.

“Why are you going down this road to persecute somebody? It is not right,” Robinson protested.

“If the member has something specific related to how that person has executed his job and that he has done so with bias, that is different, but to go back and be asking somebody what their previous … I don’t know how relevant that is,” Robinson charged.

But Warmington refused to relent as he accused the commission of being “tainted”.

However, Robinson noted that Evans was the director with responsibility for corruption prevention, stakeholder engagement, and anti-corruption strategy.

“As far as I know – and I know in my capacity because I participated in training organised by the Integrity Commission – that was the role the individual played. The individual doesn’t play any role in determining who must be investigated … or who must be prosecuted,” he added.

Committee Chairman Edmund Bartlett intervened and cautioned Warmington that he was heading down the “wrong road”.

“I think that information with regard to members of the commission and their antecedents are also part of what, as an oversight committee, you would have an interest in, but I don’t want it to be felt that there is any intention to go after any individual as is inferred by another member,” Bartlett said.

Committee member Phillip Paulwell said the objective of the committee was not to “persecute” any individual but to try to make the Integrity Commission more effective in the fight against corruption in Jamaica.

He urged members of the committee to conduct themselves with decorum.

In a parting shot, Christie said, “As far as I recall, it is a constitutional right for someone to have a political view.”

He indicated that Warmington should communicate his concerns to the commissioners.