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SKN’s AG may shed light on people who have taken advantage of the Treasury

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by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – The Attorney General of St. Kitts and Nevis, Hon Garth Wilkin, has been making waves on social media because of statements made during a youth forum on September 21, 2022.

The Attorney General was answering a question about the measures and ramifications for people who use their position in government for their gain.

Minister Wilkin explained the process and indicated that he might be embarrassing some people by saying, “decision to prosecute for crimes under our Constitution is solely within the purview of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Governments cannot decide whether to prosecute previous Governments. For minor infractions, we can take persons before the Public Service Commission with the evidence that we have, and they could potentially be removed from the public service.” 

He added, “After yesterday and some things that I discovered, I might be publicly embarrassing some people, which might actually be worse than going to prison. I’m contemplating whether I should do that, and I am minded more so 70/30 to embarrass some people who might not have been corrupt but were, and I don’t want to use the word I used earlier, but not very friendly towards our treasury. And I’m not going to tolerate that, and I’m going to embarrass some people. Also, we’re considering appointing a special prosecutor that can engage auditors, independent auditors, to investigate some of the statutory corporations and then that special prosecutor can then prepare reports to present to the DPP, who will then decide whether to prosecute or not. I think it’s time we need to draw a line in the sand, and we need to make sure that we have a better country moving forward.”

The AG made those remarks during the St. Kitts National Youth Parliament Association’s (SKNYPA) second annual Youth Forum. The symposium focused on leadership  under the theme “A New Era: Breaking the Barrier; Reimagining Youth Leaders” on September 21, 2022.

In a presentation earlier in the forum, Attorney General Wilkin spoke of what integrity is as he told the young people in attendance that integrity is “doing what is best for the greater or common good” and maintaining their character even when no one is watching.

“If any of you wish to be excellent leaders, be honest with your colleagues. Act morally in everything you do, do the right thing at all times. Uphold the truest elements of integrity, and make those character traits your armour and protect yourself from those who do not wish to see you succeed. In a practical sense, integrity, particularly in public life, is the action of preventing corruption of yourself and others.”

How does the Government assure integrity in its operations?

Provisions already exist in the Integrity in Public Life and Freedom of Information Acts though not fully operationalised.

The Anti-Corruption Act is the last of the three pillars to fight against corruption yet to be passed.

The AG said those issues would be fixed in short order.

“Only a leader with integrity can put an end to corrupt practices within the institution he or she leads. Because a leader with integrity will not take bribes, he or she will also seek to eradicate bribery within the structure of the institution by setting clear anticorruption policies and by policing them. In my context, being a minister of government, albeit for a couple of weeks, the way we plan to begin to tackle the currently existing widespread corruption in the Federation is by fully operationalising the Integrity in Public Life Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the Anti Corruption Act, which will work as three pillars of protection from the Treasury rapists that currently exists throughout our ministries. All three of these Acts will be operationalised this year.”

Watch the Youth Forum here: 

Some on social media criticised, saying previous Attorneys General made similar statements and nothing was done. 

AG Wilkin’s statement rang true when a document from the Ministry of Legal and Justice Affairs informed the public of the cancellation of a contract with a local production company Open Interactive.

The letter reads: 

“The Office of the Attorney-General (“AGO”) and the Ministry of Justice & Legal Affairs (“MJLA”) hereby notify the general public that all engagements between the AGO, MJLA and a company, Open Interactive Inc., with offices at Wilkin Street, Fortlands, Basseterre, St Kitts have ended effective August 26, 2022.

The AGO & MJLA website (legal.gov.kn) and social media accounts will be managed by the Department of Information Technology henceforth. We apologize to the general public for not updating our website and social media accounts since August 26, 2022 and ask for your patience whilst we transition the administration thereof to the Department of IT.

Please note that, as a matter of full disclosure, Open Interactive Inc. was first engaged by the MJLA by a written contract dated November 1, 2019 which expired on October 31, 2020 by which US$10,000 (EC$27,169) per month was paid to Open Interactive Inc. for services related to the aforementioned website and social media accounts. Open Interactive Inc. was then engaged by the AGO by a written contract dated February 1, 2020 which expired on August 31, 2020 by which US$25,000 (US$67,922.50) per month was paid to Open Interactive Inc. for similar services.

After the expiry of the aforementioned contracts, Open Interactive Inc. continued to be paid US$10,000 (EC$27,169) per month by the AGO & MJLA.

Over the lifespan of both contracts and thereafter, Open Interactive Inc. was paid a total of EC$1,344,865.50 for monthly invoiced services between November 2019 and June 2022 at an average of EC$42,027 per month, separate and apart from other payments made to Open Interactive Inc. by the AGO & MJLA for ad hoc events.”

The Attorney General left the following parting words for young people who aspire to occupy leadership roles in society.

“Leadership with integrity is not shown simply by implementing codes, policies and rules to control the other people within your institution. It is shown by implementing and policing those codes, policies and rules, which deter corrupt practices from institution leadership down to the sanitation team and being answerable for one’s own breaches preaches. One has to be the example and lead by example to be an excellent leader. So if it’s anything I want the young leaders in this room to remember from the time when Garth Wilkinn spoke to you on September 21, 2022, is that you need to be better than the ones before us. Our future is in your hands, and we expect you all to lead with integrity.”

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