December 2022 exposed a practice that questioned the effectiveness of one of the anti-corruption measures instituted in accordance with the Public Life Act. That act guides the actions of public servants in Grenada while the “gift registry” is one of the accountability mediums for people who hold public office.
It was in December 2022 that Richard Duncan, Chairman of the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Committee returned a “Christmas gift” to Bo Xu, Chief Executive Officer, Mt Hartman Development Ltd. In the return to sender letter, Duncan explained that “The value of the above-mentioned items is incongruent with the Grenada Citizenship by Investment code of business conduct and ethics policy.” There is no evidence that such a policy was ever published in gazette as part of the Public Life regulation but Section 45, Sub-section one of the Integrity in 2013 Public Life Act says, “A person in public life shall not accept any gift or reward from any person.”
Lawyer Gillian Bristol who was appointed as the third chairperson of the Integrity Commission said the Public Life law provides guidance, but the onus is on the person in public life to conduct themselves “so they will not breach what is in the Act.”
Referring specifically to Section 45 subsection 2(b) of the legislation, Bristol says out that the one exception that accepting a gift from a “dignitary” to ensure that a foreign officer is not offended. Bristol said that the law provides for that gift such gift must “to be registered with the Commission”. Despite the limitation, the act says that a public officer can accept gifts from:
(a) a community organisation on a social occasion which represents the creativity of that organisation; and
(b) a foreign dignitary, where the person in public life has reasonable grounds to believe that the refusal to accept the gift may offend the foreign dignitary”
The Public Life Act also instructs, that a person in public life who accepts a “gift or a reward” “shall make a report to the Commission of that fact in the prescribed manner within seven days of the receipt of the gift.” There is much uncertainty about the number of gifts given to, received or refused by public officials since the gift registry became operational in 2019.