The High Court in Grenada on Friday ruled that the Integrity Commission acted in accordance with the law when it started its inquiry into the allegation of financial wrongdoing at the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB).
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said in July last year that the Cabinet had endorsed a recommendation for a thorough investigation of the MNIB and in September, the Integrity Commission announced that it had launched a probe into MNIB following media reports and other statements in the public domain.
It said that the probe would cover the “current and past affairs at the Board, from early August 2018”.
Mitchell had also indicated that much had gone wrong at the MNIB and the investigation would cover the period 2013 to 2018.
But, the former MNIB chief executive officer, Ruel Edwards, challenged the decision of the Commission in Court claiming that it had no right to conduct an inquiry without a written complaint.
In his ruling, Justice Godfrey Smith noted that it is undisputed that the investigation by the Commission was not triggered by any complaint made to the Commission but initiated by the independent organisation itself.
The judge also noted that in relation to the claimant’s statement of facts and issues, it was filed after the hearing date of June 5 this year without the leave of the Court.
In addition, “and more importantly, the issue of the Commission’s bias and lack of independence were not pleaded,” Justice Smith said, adding that there’s nothing in Edwards’ three affidavits “to suggest an intention to challenge the Commission’s investigation on either of these grounds.
“The issues of bias and lack of independence appear to be an afterthought. To permit the claimant to advance arguments now on these issues for which there is no bias in his pleadings and when the Commission would have had no opportunity to rebut these fresh assertions with affidavit evidence would be improper and wholly unfair to the Commission”.
The judge also said that he is “satisfied that there is no proper basis to grant any of the reliefs sought by the claimant in this case”.
Attorney Ruggles Ferguson, who together with Trinidad-born Senior Counsel, Douglas Mendes, represented the Commission during the Court proceedings, said after the ruling that “essentially what the Court is saying in the judgement is that once there is an allegation of corruption or suspicious of corruption, the Commission can act on it, and in this case, the allegation was published by a newspaper in a series of articles.
“One of the articles even had quotes from a former chairman of the Board,” he said.
Edwards, who was represented by former attorney general Cajeton Hood and Trinidadian Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson, has 42 days to appeal the High Court ruling.