Min. Hughes says not in breach of Integrity Act, refutes conflict of interest allegations

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Press Release by Catherine Hughes Minister of Public Telecommunications 

Dated the 15th April 2019.

In headlines of today’s edition of the Stabroek News in an article entitled “Minster Hughes in clear breach of the integrity Act”, the following statement is made “To the extent she continues to retain ownership of the company in question, or an interest in it, she is in breach of the Code of Conduct contained in the Act. This could trigger an investigation by the Commission and possibly criminal proceedings,” Goolsarran told Stabroek News.

This headline is ingenuous at best.

I would like to invite everyone’s attention to the specific provisions of the Integrity Commission (Amendment of Code of Conduct) Order 2017 particularly the contents of Articles 4 and 5 “Conflict of Interest” and “Use of Official influence.”

The specific contents of the article 4 provide:

No person in public life shall

  • Allow private interest to conflict with his or her public duties or improperly influence his or her conduct in public in the performance of his or her public
  • Allow the pursuit of his or her private interests to interfere with the proper discharge of his or her public

Provided that any such conflict that tends to interfere with the proper discharge of his or her public duties shall be reported to the Integrity Commission for guidance on a resolution as soon as practicable in favour of public duties of the person in public life.

(2)      For the purposes of this Code, a conflict of interest arises where a public official makes or participates in the making of decision in the execution of his or her office and at the same time knows or ought to have reasonably have known, that the making of that decision, there is material beneficial opportunity either directly or indirectly to further his or her private interest or that of a member of his or her family or any other person or entity.

  • A person in public life shall In order to protect and uphold the public interest , take reasonable steps to avoid, resolve and disclose any material conflict of interest, financial or non financial, that arises or is likely to arise, between his or her personal interest and his or her official duties
  • Declare any conflict of interest in writing to the relevant authority as soon as possible after becoming aware of the conflict of interest
  • Refuse or relinquish any outside employment, shareholding or directorship which create conflict of Article 5 of the Code provides

Use of official influence. 

No person in public life shall use his or her official influence in support of any scheme or in furtherance of any contract or proposed contract or other matter in regard of which he or she has an interest.

I have never made or participated in the making of any decision in the execution of my office as Minister of Public Telecommunications in the deliberations of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) decision to award a contract to Videomega Productions.

I have no relationship with the decision making processes of the DOE. The decision was entirely that of the Department of Energy.

I have never utilized any influence official or otherwise to influence the furtherance of any contract with VideoMega Productions Ltd.

I have never at any time prior to the public comments by MP Gail Texeira and Edward Layne from Channel 28 been aware that the DOE was considering the award of any contract to Videomega Productions.

In my declarations to the Integrity Commission made in July 2018 prior to the declarations of most members of the National Assembly including the Leader of the Opposition, I fully disclosed my interest in Videomega Productions Ltd.

I have taken no decision in my capacity as Minister of Public Telecommunications or in my personal capacity which has been the subject of a conflict of interest.

I completely reject the not surprising but malicious accusations of Stabroek News and Anand Goolsarran.

We don’t all have private agendas with special interests to protect.

Catherine Hughes. M.P.

Minister of Public Telecommunications.

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