Though the Register of Interests Act was passed with amendments during the most recent sitting of the House of Assembly, there are doubts that the bill will become law in its current state following recent concerns expressed by Governor John Rankin.
In a recent press conference, the Governor said that having skimmed through the document that he had received only earlier that day, he was concerned that the language used in the Amended Register of Interests Act was restrictive and contrary to the government’s move to greater transparency.
He said, “The House of Assembly has passed the bill, but with some amendments. I only received the text of those amendments this morning and will need to study them and their impact in detail. I am concerned that the effect of these amendments is to significantly restrict public access to the register and, if so, that would run counter to the new culture of transparency and accountability towards which we are working following the Commission of Inquiry.”
The governor, who stressed that such a law must be done correctly to ensure that elected officials are accountable to the people they are meant to serve, said “my concern is this, there are different types of public registers. In the United Kingdom, for example, if anybody, any journalist or any member of the public wishes to see the register… they can find them available and they can copy them and they can be published.”
“My initial understanding of the amendments which were made in the House of Assembly is that it would be much more restricted in terms of someone could go look at the register but what they could do with that information will be much more restricted”, Governor Rankin added.
In response to questions surrounding any possible delays in him receiving the amended document, Rankin explained that the period of time taken from the House of Assembly to his desk was not of concern because of the processes which must take place in between.
“This is fairly standard… the amendments take some time to be put together by the House of Assembly clerks and then by the Attorney General’s Office so there’s not been any unnecessary delay in this area” Rankin explained.
The governor said that upon carefully assessing the document that he has been delivered he will make a decision on whether any further steps will be required to ensure greater transparency.
In any case, he said, these matters will be discussed with the premier and the government.