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Friday 23 August 2019
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Letters to the Editor

CoE needed into past CoEs

THE EDITOR: There have been several commissions of enquiry (CoEs) over the years to probe improprieties, misconduct and serious criminal behaviour. Have the taxpayers gotten value for money? What has happened after all these CoEs? We may now need a Commission of Enquiry to investigate the outcome of every CoE.

Maybe those with good memories could help educate the public on what became of the following:

1. Report of the CoE into the oil industry – 1963-1964.

2. Report of the CoE into the operation and delivery of public healthcare services.

3. In 1977 there was a report of the CoE into all aspects of the tenure of building land, including the complaints, hardships, problems and other incidents arising from the letting of building land.

4. Report of the CoE into the functioning of the EBC – May 31, 2002.

5. The CoE into the construction sector and Udecott was chaired by Prof John Uff QC. The commission held its first public hearing on January 12, 2009.

6. The report of the CoE appointed to probe the failure of regional insurance conglomerate Colonial Life (Clico) was handed over to then president Anthony Carmona on June 22, 2016.

In presenting the report, Judith Gonzalez, secretary of the commission, pointed to the autocratic style of the management of Clico – and the CLF Group generally – and its business model, which was found to be seriously flawed, and by the cavalier manner it treated attempts by the Inspector of Financial Institutions to deploy such limited regulatory control tools as were then available.

On the need to reform the Commission of Enquiry Act, in relation to compelling witnesses to testify, the report noted that although a commissioner was empowered as a High Court judge to order a witness to appear to give evidence, “failure to comply does not amount to an offence analogous to contempt of court, which can be punished by the judge.

“Instead, the available sanction for breach of such an order involves prosecution in a magistrates court. The maximum sentence upon conviction is a fine of $2,000, a punishment of practically no deterrent effect.”

It said the commission was denied the benefit of hearing evidence from four key witnesses involved in the management of the CLF Group, “whose evidence would have been highly material to its findings.”

7. On September 7, 2016, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley received from the President the report of the CoE into the Las Alturas residential towers which were built by way of a contract awarded through the HDC, having inherited the project from Udecott. A number of towers were built in Morvant and two of the towers failed engineeringly and eventually had to be demolished.

8. The report on the CoE appointed to inquire into the events surrounding the attempted coup of July 27, 1990, was handed over to then president Carmona on March 13, 2014, signed by all the commissioners (Sir David Simmons, Dr Eastlyn McKenzie, Sir Richard Cheltenham, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, and Dr Haffizool Ali-Mohammed). Anything happened to the insurrectionists?

The Government should think seriously about setting up a CoE to investigate the state of all former Commissions of Enquiry.

PHILBERT GERVAIS

via e-mail

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