Sat | Jul 20, 2019

Integrity giving Dirk Harrison pension backing

Published:Wednesday | May 15, 2019 | 12:15 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer
Acting Director of Corruption Prosecutions Dirk Harrison (left) listens keenly to Chief Justice Bryan Sykes during the celebration of Europe Day on Thursday, May 9.
Retired Justice Karl Harrison, chairman of the Integrity Commission.
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After much public outcry, the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service (MOFPS) last Friday gave the all-clear for the Integrity Commission to advertise and interview individuals for positions within the body whose substantive posts were subsumed when the new ­integrity legislation came into effect in 2018.

Among the positions which will be advertised is that of director of corruption prosecutions, over which there has been a brouhaha over the non-appointment of former Contractor General Dirk Harrison. Harrison, the former contractor general, has been acting in an interim position since his office became part of the new body, along with the former head of the Corruption Prevention Commission, Joy Powell.

Powell is currently the interim head of information and complaints, and David Grey the interim director of investigations.

Integrity Commission Chairman, retired Justice Karl Harrison, during a preamble and response to public criticisms involving Dirk Harrison, said he was pleased to announce that the finance ministry gave permissions for the positions to be advertised.

It was interim Executive Director Colonel Daniel Pryce who said the corruption watchdog received permission on Friday, May 10, after days of public and political complaints about the non-appointment of Harrison.

Both Pryce and Karl Harrison were among Integrity Commission officials who fielded questions from journalists at a press conference on Monday.

TRANSPARENCY CONCERNS

The press conference homed in on the disagreement over Dirk Harrison’s Office of the Contractor General report into the Urban Development Corporation’s sale of the Rooms on the Beach resort property and beach lands, as well as concerns over the pace and transparency of Integrity Commission investigations.

Karl Harrison said that the commission would not be seeking to cause Harrison to lose some of his benefits, such as pension and emoluments related to his former role as contractor general.

“The matter pertaining by Mr Dirk Harrison was not created by this commission, but inherited,” Justice Harrison told the press conference.

According to him, by virtue of Section 62 (4) of the Integrity Commission Act “all persons who, on the appointed day (February 22, 2018), who held offices under any of the respective commissions, under a contractual arrangement, shall, from that day, be deemed to continue to hold, under the commission, established under this act, the like, or similar respective offices or employment, on the same or no less favourable terms, as they held, those or similar offices, under any of the respective commissions,” he read from his prepared statement.

Harrison was contractor general on a seven-year fixed-term contract, which would expire in March 2020, under which he would become pensionable on expiration.

Section 62(5) states: “A person who has served in an office established under the Integrity Commission Act, The Corruption Prevention Act or the Contractor General Act, and would have, but for the repeal of the respective Acts, be eligible to receive a ­pension there under.”

A pension will be payable where such service, together with the person’s service, under the current act, amount to an aggregate of not less than seven years,” he said.

“It simply means that Mr Harrison would have until March 2020 to be entitled to a pension,” he stated.

It was the commission’s view that Dirk Harrison is entitled to a full pension and has taken steps to secure such for him. However, Harrison has brought to its attention provisions under the law pertaining to pension payments to a contractor general, for which advice is being sought from the solicitor general, he said.

He said the matter of his employment as contractor general and the separation from that post must be resolved before he can receive an instrument of appointment. However, it appears that the matters were resolved by Friday, with the ministry now giving permissions for positions to be advertised.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com