ACIB stays with AG
By ANDRE BAGOO Wednesday, July 4 2012
WHILE in February she publicly pledged to remove the controversial Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB) from under the remit of the Ministry of the Attorney General, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Monday quietly advised President George Maxwell Richards to keep the department under the Attorney General.
The Prime Minister this week assigned various government departments to different ministries, a week after her Cabinet reshuffle. Newsday yesterday obtained the list of portfolio responsibilities for different ministries.
According to the list, the ACIB is to remain under the Ministry of the Attorney General.
At a press conference on February 12, days after the ACIB conducted a widely-condemned raid on the offices of Newsday and the home of one of its senior journalists, the Prime Minister assured that the controversial unit would be removed from under the Attorney General, after decades of concern over perceptions of the politicisation of the police.
“It will be removed completely,” Persad-Bissessar said then. “It will be done, and it will be done soon. I asked the Attorney General to bring a note to Cabinet for the removal of the ACIB.” She argued the ACIB did not belong within the Ministry of the Attorney General.
The ACIB raids were done after the Integrity Commission chairman Ken Gordon called in the police to probe the sources of information for exclusive Newsday stories in relation to reports of a row between him and the deputy chairman Gladys Gafoor. The row has since escalated into legal action, now engaging the High Court.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, days after the ACIB raids of February 9, publicly distanced himself from the ACIB and called for the unit to be removed from his ministry.
“The placement of this unit under the office of the Attorney General by former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj was always a matter of some contention,” Ramlogan said in a widely-published statement issued on February 11. “In the circumstances, the Attorney General considers the continued retention of the ACIB under his portfolio to be an embarrassment.” At the same time, Ramlogan said the ACIB does not report to him.
“The ACIB does not report to the Attorney General. The Attorney General is merely the administrative conduit in the same way that he is for the Judiciary or the Director of Public Prosecutions,” he said.
Ramlogan took a note to Cabinet which was reportedly referred to the Finance and General Purpose Committee (FNGP). Cabinet sources claimed Persad-Bissessar later privately expressed reluctance for any minister to take up less responsibility in the Cabinet. There have been calls, under successive administrations, for the ACIB to be moved from under the Ministry of the Attorney General.
The Prime Minister left the country yesterday to attend a meeting of Caricom leaders. While many of the portfolio assignments remain the same, there is one major change for the Office of the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister will now have responsibility for “freedom of information monitoring”, which is understood to include oversight of the Freedom of Information Act. That legislation, which has been the source of contention in the past, regulates the way public authorities disclose information to the public. The responsibility previously fell under the old portfolio of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Communications.
The new Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration, will be in charge of the country’s museums and the National Trust, among other areas.