Wednesday, March 22, 2006

PSIB Press Release 22 March 2006

Anguilla Public Service Integrity Board

Press Release

Members of the Public Service Integrity Board and the Public Administration Department from Anguilla attended a workshop in Antigua on 13-15 March on the topic of Ethics and Integrity in Government. Anguilla’s delegates were Hon Mark Capes, deputy governor, Stanley Reid and Lana Horsford-Harrigan from the Public Administration Department, and Pastor Cecil Richardson, Mr Allister Richardson and Justice Don Mitchell, CBE, from the Public Service Integrity Board.

The three-day workshop was sponsored by DFID, the Anguilla Public Service, and the National School of Government of the UK. It was attended by representatives of the public services of Bermuda, Turks & Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and Montserrat, as well as Anguilla. Principal speakers and resource persons included Ms Karen West of the National School of Government, Ms Caterina Alari, the Governance Adviser for the Overseas Territories Department, Sir Alistair Graham, Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Professor Victor Ayeni, the Head of the Governance and Institutional Development Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat, and Baroness Rennie Fritchie, until December 2005 the Commissioner for Public Appointments in the UK.

Participants engaged in a frank discussion of the journeys that their countries had embarked on in the matter of ethics and integrity, and on the challenges faced in their countries. Members of the Board took part in sessions on building the business case for ethics and integrity, and on the state of ethics and integrity in the Commonwealth and Caribbean Region. They learned about the principles governing ethics and integrity in practice in the UK. Justice Mitchell made a presentation on the state of ethics and integrity in practice in Anguilla. Mr Reid made a presentation on what steps Anguilla had taken so far to promote ethics and integrity in Anguilla.

Members of the Anguilla Public Service Integrity Board returned to Anguilla determined to take steps to put the case for honesty and integrity in government to the people. There is a problem with existing laws against dishonesty in government that are not enforced. There are institutions, such as the Public Accounts Committee, that are not effective. And, there are procedures, such as the Ministerial Code of Conduct and the Register of Interests of parliamentarians, that are ignored. There are gaps in our laws, such as an Ombudsman, a complaints commission, and a freedom of information law. These place members of the public at the mercy of administrators and politicians who could take advantage of them without recourse.

Members of the Board have promised to take steps to increase public awareness of the cost to the public resulting from any public decisions being made without adequate attention to the need for absolute integrity in public life. The challenge is that if we do not manage change, change will manage us. We must act now to ensure that corruption does not overwhelm us as it has in other islands. We must embed ethics in the public consciousness. We should accept it as normal to enjoy trust in the public service and towards our Ministers of government. No member of the public must expect a hand-out from a politician in exchange for a vote. No citizen should agree to pay a bribe for a public service. Ethics and integrity should be a hallmark of our governance system, not just be given lip-service. It must be a way of life.

Members of the Board will work with the civil service to encourage the adoption of a Code of Ethics that will protect public servants and guarantee improved services for members of the public.

Dated 22 March 2006