Councilor Gualberto ‘Wally’ Nunez Jr. came to our office with a broad smile to announce that he was submitting his Declaration Form to the Office of the Integrity commission. We learned from Wally that this is a required declaration form as a result of the Prevention of Corruption Act No 21 of 2007 which was signed into law on February of 2008 under the first term of the UDP Administration. (This applies to town councilors, senators, cabinet ministers, members of the National Assembly among a few others)
Ambergris Today asked Wally “Why the eagerness to submit this form?” and here is his reply: “I am an elected official and it is my duty to file so that everyone may know my financial status. Secondly I am a PUP elected councilor and I want to set the good example for the record that I intend to be as accountable and transparent as possible. Then I know that there was scarcely anyone who filed in the past administration both at the town council level and the National level and I want to challenge all 111 elected officials this time around to follow the law because if we don’t set the good example, who will?”
The prevention of Corruption Act states: a person in public life shall, in accordance with this act, file with the Commission, a "sworn" declaration of assets, income and liabilities in front of a Magistrate, JP, Commissioner or Registrar of the Supreme Court This filing must be done within 3 months of his/her being elected into office. (June 7 was the deadline).
Failure to file a declaration form carries a penalty of three thousand dollars ($3,000.00) on first offence and a fine of five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) on the second offence. Additionally anybody who fails to file the declaration shall be fined $100.00 for each day that they are late in filing their forms.
This leaves us with one big question. What about all those elected public officials who did not file during their three or four years of governance in the past administrations? Having broken the law, are they liable to pay the fine or face imprisonment?
When ordinary citizens break the law, for example in the payment of GST, they are fined. Is it the Integrity Commission that will follow up and impose the fines and penalties? Or is it an ordinary citizen who must pressure this. One thing we know and it is that Wally Nunez will not have to worry about this fine. All other elected officials, councilors, area representatives, etc. are encouraged to do so not only to avoid the penalty but for accountability and transparency as mandated by the Prevention of Corruption Act.