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Law on Ministers Duties‏ by Charles Wilkin QC

By his oath of office a Minister undertakes to carry out his functions in good faith for the benefit of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis and to use his powers only for proper purposes. These are traditionally described as “fiduciary duties”. If he allows his personal interest to conflict with those duties and he benefits from such conflict he can be ordered by a court to cough up any profit he made. Such conduct may also amount to misfeasance in public office. Such a Minister faces potential action from persons and companies against whom he competes in business. Recourse includes damages and an injunction to stop him acting in conflict of interest. He therefore cannot hide behind the Cabinet for protection.

The office of Minister of Government is a full-time occupation. A Minister who engages in private business or consultancy or a profession is therefore in breach of the duty he undertakes by his oath of office.

Formation by a Minister of a company to carry on business is an expression of his intent to ignore his fiduciary duty. Ministers should also avoid potential conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest. These create suspicion of impropriety especially in our system which does not have Integrity in Public Life, Freedom of Information and other transparency legislation that deter corruption and enable the public to find out if in fact the Minister is abusing his office for personal benefit.

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