The contract of the current Commissioner of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) comes to an end in a few days time. Commissioner Terrence Williams, INDECOM’s first commissioner, has provided the body with strong leadership in its first ten years of existence. There will be time to review his time in office, the course he has charted for the organization and the significant impact it has had since it came into being in 2010.
But in this short blog post, I want to raise the issue of the appointment of the next Commissioner of INDECOM. At this point, a few days before the current Commissioner leaves office, the public has no idea who the new Commissioner will be. We have no idea if the selection process has begun. If it has begun, we have no idea what stage it is at. In all likelihood, we will wake up one morning to the announcement that the Governor-General has appointed the new Commissioner and we will at that point be told the name of the person selected to lead this very important Commission of Parliament.
This is because the INDECOM Act follows the formula for appointment of a number of public posts both in the Constitution and in some legislation. In this case it is appointment by the Governor General after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The formula varies for different posts. But what is common to all is that the public isn’t privy to the process, but merely receives the news of the appointment when someone who is part of the process tells us.
The process for appointment of the Commissioner of INDECOM is set out in Section 3(2) of the INDECOM Act:
“The Commission shall consist of a Commissioner, who shall be appointed by the Governor-General by instrument under the Broad Seal, after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, from persons of high integrity, who possess the qualifications to hold office as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica.”
Is this an appropriate formula for a modern democracy? The issue has been raised before in regard to other posts. Perhaps it is time for this formula to be reviewed and replaced by more transparent processes. This may be harder to do where it appears in the Constitution, but not as hard when it appears in ordinary legislation.
We may indeed have the appointment of an excellent person for the post of the new Commissioner. But it shouldn’t come in the form of a surprise fait accompli. Not in the year 2020.