Commission says no probe into Asot

Asot Michael (OBSERVER media photo)

There will be no investigation by the Integrity Commission into scandal hit former energy minister MP Ascot Michael, at least not for now.

That’s according a communique from the Commission which said this is because no complaint has been lodged against Michael who was sacked in October last year when he was arrested on suspicion of involvement in bribery and fraud with UK tycoon Peter Virdee. Michael was appointed to a new ministerial post this year but then resigned as the scandal came to haunt him once again last month.

See the press statement from the Integrity Commission…

“In an earlier communique, the Integrity Commission advised the general public that it had met and discussed certain issues, including the Asot Michael matter, and that it had determined that there were grounds for an investigation under Section 12(1)(b) of the Integrity in Public Life Act 2004. The Commission also advised that it would make a formal request of the Government for the necessary resources to enable it to conduct the investigation.

The Integrity Commission is pleased to advise that the Government has responded favourably to the Commission’s request and has requested the Commission to submit a budget to enable the Government to make the necessary budgetary allocations.  As a first step the Commission has engaged legal counsel to the Commission and in its most recent deliberations has had the benefit of the advice and opinion of said legal counsel. The Commission therefore wishes to advise the public as follows on the functions and powers of the Integrity Commission.

As to the functions of the Commission, firstly, pursuant to section 12(1)(b) of the Integrity in Public Life Act 2004, it is a function of the Commission to receive and investigate complaints regarding noncompliance with or contravention of any of the provisions of the Integrity in Public Life Act 2004 or the Prevention of Corruption Act 2004.

Secondly, pursuant to section 12(1)(d) of the Integrity in Public Life Act 2004, it is a function of the Commission to conduct an investigation into any offence of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act 2004 if it is satisfied that there are grounds for an investigation.

It is important that the functions of the Commission as mandated by section 12(1)(b) and (d) of the Integrity in Public Life Act 2004 be read together and in context. Legal counsel has advised the Commission that upon reading both subsections together he is of the considered view that the Commission cannot determine that there are grounds for an investigation in a vacuum but only in the presence of a complaint properly received by the Commission in accordance with section 22 of the Integrity in Public Life Act 2004. The need for a complaint in order to ground an investigation is fortified by Part IV of the Integrity in Public Life Act 2004 which makes extensive provision as to how a complaint is to be lodged and how an investigation is to be conducted.

Section 22 of the Integrity in Public Life Act 2004, among other things, dictates that a complaint to the Commission cannot be vague and in general terms. It must give substantial particulars, including (1) the period within which there was the commission of an alleged breach of the Integrity in Public Life Act 2004 or the Prevention of Corruption Act 2004 and (2) the names and addresses of persons involved in the commission of the breach. Further, the person making the complaint is mandated under section 22(2)(a) of the Integrity in Public Life Act 2004 to provide evidence to support the complaint including documentary evidence and must provide a sworn statement.

To date, the Commission has not received any complaint with respect to the Asot Michael matter, in accordance with section 22 of the Integrity in Public Life Act 2004. Legal counsel has advised that in the circumstances the Commission is unable to proceed with an investigation into that matter.

The Commission is continuing to take steps to strengthen the infrastructure within the Commission so that it may properly perform its functions, including the investigation of any complaint that is properly before it.”