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13 Dec 2018
The Integrity Commission has intensified investigations into alleged financial wrongdoings and corrupt practices at the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB). Centre of the investigation is its former Chief Executive Officer Ruel Edwards, who was recently appointed Director of Economic and Technical Cooperation in the Ministry of Economic Development and Planning.
During the ceremony to recognise International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December, Chairperson of the Integrity Commission Lady Anande Trotman–Joseph indicated that as of this week, the commission began interviewing individuals who may have information that can assist in their investigation. “We are not working alone. Yes, we are working quietly and confidentially, and we know that is causing Grenadians… to wonder… but we assure you, that come next week and leading right into the first quarter of 2019 this will be an unfolding page of news.”
News of this investigation created headlines earlier this year and has brought the management of MNIB under the microscope.
Lady Anande Trotman–Joseph said their investigation is in line with the integrity in public life legislation. “We are relying on our laws, in particular, we are relying on section 12(2)(b) of our Integrity in Public Life Act which allows us, and encourage us and empowers us to make use of the services or draw on the expertise of any law enforcement agency or the public service.”
In September the Integrity Commission was informed that Rupert Agostini formally recused himself from MNIB investigations which were made known to the commission on 7 August. The recusal of Agostini, who currently heads local accounting firm Agostini WR & Co, was as a result of his position as auditor of the said organisation currently under scrutiny.
The commission’s chairman also stated that Edwards should not be seen to be the only subject of the investigation, as various other individuals, including those who previously held a position at the MNIB, are also part of the investigations.
The commission also indicated that there are 5 investigations underway, with more to be launched in the new year.
13 Sep 2018
The Office of the Integrity Commission has provided new information on the ongoing investigations into the financial state of affairs of the state-owned Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB).
Lady Anande Trotman-Joseph, Chairperson, Integrity Commission, confirmed that one of its members, Rupert Agostini has formally recused himself from the investigations into the MNIB, due to his position as auditor of the said organisation currently under scrutiny. Agostini currently heads local accounting firm Agostini WR & Co.
A recusal is to excuse oneself from a case because of a potential conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.
Agostini’s recusal was officially made known to the commission on 7 August, Trotman-Joseph said during their first press conference since the start of investigation on 2 August. “We can share because it is no secret that commissioner Agostini has recused himself entirely from this particular investigation, based on our conflict management system which has been developed with assistance from the OAS and UNODC, a system of recusal. We did, in fact, have a very formal recusal to the entire commission by Rupert Agostini. He has now to face in our commission what we call a Chinese wall within our own organisation by his agreement.”
The dire financial situation faced by the MNIB was brought to the public attention following a media report released in a local newspaper in July. Former Chief Executive Officer of MNIB, Ruel Edwards, was the subject of discussion after the former MNIB chairman, Simon Andrew was quoted as pointing blame at Edwards, for hiding the true financial state of affairs of the MNIB from the entire board of directors. Edwards had recently received a new position in the Ministry of Finance.
Trotman-Joseph told the media that Edwards should not be seen to be the only subject of the investigation as various other personnel including those who previously held a position at the MNIB are also part of the investigations. “We don’t want to say that any one person is the subject of the investigation, because not only is that unfair to a person who by our law in Grenada, is innocent until proven guilty, that perhaps it will become skewed if any responsible investigating outfit would pin everything on a person. Our act tells us that we are looking at a system and in that system, there are responsible office-holders past and present and everyone and all documents, reports and any relevant information is what is at play here.”
Operations Manager at the Office of the Integrity Commission, Elizabeth Henry-Greenidge informed that although initial discussions have been held with various people of interest to this investigation, no formal interview with these individuals has taken place. “What we can say at this stage is that we have not yet called in anyone to conduct an interview specifically with individuals. Like our press release indicated we did had some initial discussion at the premises of the new chairman and the acting CEO of the MNIB but that was mainly to deliver our letter informing them that we were conducting the investigation and requesting some information, but we have not yet interviewed any other person to date. But as the investigation proceeds I am sure we will get to the point where we would need to speak to people.”
The members of the Inquiry Panel of the Commission for the purposes of the MNIB investigation are:
(1) The Chairman, Commissioner Robert Robinson, who is the Deputy Chairman of the commission. He is a regional subject matter expert in industrial relations, and was recommended to serve on the Commission by then Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas, of the National Democratic Congress Government;
(2) Commissioner Oforiwa Augustine who is an experienced lawyer and former magistrate. She was recommended to serve on the commission by the Grenada Council of Churches;
(3) Commissioner Bertie Hill, who is an experienced church leader, with a background in Management and Business, and was recommended to serve on the commission by the Association of Evangelical Churches.
In a press release issued by the commission, it was stated that subsequent to the completion of the commission’s investigations and conduct of the inquiry, a report will be handed over to Her Excellency the Governor General, the Director of Public Prosecution and the minister with responsibility for the MNIB who at present is Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell.
04 Sep 2018
Grenada’s Integrity Commission is the body spearheading an investigation of alleged financial wrongdoings and corrupt practices by a former public officer and possible current public officers, in the operations of the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB) covering the period 2013 to 2018.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell disclosed on 31 July 2018 during a news conference that on Monday,30 July Cabinet endorsed a recommendation for a thorough investigation, which was put forward by him as the minister who has oversight for the MNIB.
The decision comes against the backdrop of recent revelations about the possible inappropriate use of MNIB funds. The Prime Minister acknowledged that a lot has gone wrong at the MNIB. A new Board of Directors were appointed following the 13 March 2018 General Election, and it was these new members who realised there were financial wrongdoings. Shortly after their appointment, then CEO left his job for a new post within the Ministry of Economic Development.
On Monday, 3 September a news release from the Integrity Commission stated it has started the investigation and provided a status report. This is the first corruption investigation since Grenada approved legislation to combat corruption.
“Further to media reports and statements circulating with regard to concerns about the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB), the Integrity Commission, on its own initiative, commenced investigations into the current and past affairs at the Board, from early August 2018.” The release did not provide the investigation start date.
The Commission said that as part of the process it mobilised its investigations team, which comprises its technical staff of the Office of the Commission, including the Head of Investigations, Head of Compliance and the Legal Officer.
The release confirmed that the current Chairman Senator Christopher De Allie and Elvis Young, Acting CEO of the MNIB and relevant authorities have been advised by the commission of the commencement of its investigations into the management and operations of the entity. “Members of the investigation team have also met with its Chairman and Acting CEO,” the release disclosed.
Anande Trotman-Joseph, Chairman of the Integrity Commission said, “The investigations system is one of the many systems being implemented by the commission which is progressively reviewing the systems of the islands statutory bodies in accordance with the mandate in the Integrity in Public Life, the Prevention of Corruption and related Acts.”
The commission said that preliminary information was requested in pursuant to section 12 (1) (f) of the Integrity in Public Life Act, to inform the Commission’s Investigation.
That section of the legislation provides for the functions of Commission and “f” clearly states that it shall: Examine the practices and procedures of Public Bodies.
“Further to section 12 (2) (b) of the Integrity in Public Life Act, the Commission has commenced collaboration with its external stakeholders, and consultants, as it progresses the Investigation and Inquiry into the state of affairs at the MNIB,” the release stated.
That section of the law says that in the exercise of the function, “the Commission may in all cases where it considers it appropriate to do so, make use of the services or draw on the expertise of any law enforcement agency or the public service.”
The commission is also utilising section 13 of the Integrity in Public Life Act, which explains the powers and function of the commission. It says that the commission shall have the same powers, rights and privileges as a commission of inquiry appointed pursuant to the provision of the Commission of Inquiry Act.
In keeping with that provision, the commission has designated the Investigations and Complaints Panel of Commissioners, to oversee the Inquiry stage of the Investigation.
The members of the Inquiry Panel of the Commission for the purposes of the MNIB investigation are:
(1). The Chairman, Commissioner Robert Robinson, who is the Deputy Chairman of the Commission. He is a regional subject matter expert in Industrial Relations, and was recommended to serve on the Commission by then Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas, of the National Democratic Congress Government;
(2) Commissioner Oforiwa Augustine who is an experienced Lawyer and former magistrate. She was recommended to serve on the Commission by the Grenada Council of Churches, and;
(3) Commissioner Bertie Hill, who is an experienced Church Leader, with a background in Management and Business, and was recommended to serve on the Commission by the Association of Evangelical Churches.
The release said that these Commissioners shall conduct the Inquiry in private and in accordance with section 12 (1) (e), and (f) of the Integrity in Public Life Act. Subsection E says that the Commission shall “Investigate the conduct of any person falling under the purview of the Commission which in the opinion of the Commission may be considered dishonest or conducive to corruption while (f) provides for the Commission’s investigators to “Examine the practice and procedures of public bodies.”
Also providing direction for the Panel will be Sections 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Section 3 speaks about accepting of offering or soliciting gratification; Section 4 provides guidance on offences in relation to corrupt activities relating to public officers; Section 5 which provides guidance about offences in relations to corrupt activities regarding contract; Section 7 which provides guidance about offences in relation to corrupt activities relating to tenders and Section 8 which provides guidance about offences in relation to acquisition of private interest in contract, agreement or investment of public body.
The commission said that subsequent to the completion of the commission’s investigations and conduct of the inquiry, the report will be handed over to Her Excellency the Governor General, the Director of Public Prosecution and the Minister with responsibility for the MNIB who at present is Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell.
Penalties for any person who violate sections of these two pieces of legislation include disqualification from holding any public office for 7 years and jail term of 3 years.
A person who attempts to obstruct or obstructs a member or an employee of the Integrity Commission in the performance of his or her function pursuant to the provision of the Prevention of Corruption legislation, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding EC$10,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 1 year.
A public officer who fails to comply with a request from the commission can also be fined EC$10,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or both.