Ever since the Register of Interests Act was passed in 2008, the register has not functioned properly because legislators have used every trick in the book to hamstring it.

For this reason, we were glad to hear that the government plans to amend the act once again.

This time, the job must get done right.

As envisioned in the 2007 Constitution, the register should be a valuable tool for holding elected lawmakers and senior appointed officials accountable to the public.

To that end, it is supposed to include information on the financial interests of all HOA members, such as directorships, employment, clients, sponsorships, gifts received, overseas visits, land and shareholdings.

That’s a very important function in a tight-knit community where potential conflicts of interests can be commonplace and trust in government has been depleted amid allegations of malfeasance and poor governance, many of which were extensively detailed in the recent Commission of Inquiry report.

But currently, the Register of Interests system remains fundamentally flawed despite recent reforms and lots of lip service.

For years, lawmakers delayed setting up the legislative committee that was needed to approve the register’s format. And the first registrar, Victoreen Romney-Varlack, worked for 13 years to try to convince lawmakers to comply with the act and declare their interests on time.

As was revealed during the COI, nearly all elected HOA members failed to heed her warnings. And when Ms. Romney-Varlack brought these issues up in writing to then-governor Gus Jaspert and other officials in 2020, she was apparently warned by the attorney general that her correspondence was illegal due to a supposed obligation to keep the register’s contents confidential.

COI Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom rightly pointed out that any criminal proceeding taken against the registrar in such a situation would be “unforgivable.”

After the COI, legislators promised to make the register public, and they did follow up by passing new legislation in 2022. But once again, they pulled a fast one.

Though they technically made the register public, they also included onerous restrictions on viewing it, including a ban on note-taking; requirements for the viewer to pay a fee and be monitored by the registrar; and a prohibition on publishing the register’s contents.

Moreover, when we went to view the register last September, we were denied access to former premier Andrew Fahie’s entries on the grounds that Mr. Fahie was no longer in office. Finding no such restriction in the law, we asked for clarification. We were referred to the attorney general, who still hasn’t responded five months later.

The Cabinet recently announced plans amend the law again to make the register “fully accessible” at no cost and to add senior public officials, among other changes.

But at a recent press conference, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley declined to say if he supports lifting the restrictions on viewing the register. Instead, he said such questions were up to the HOA to answer when the bill is debated.

We welcome that debate and hope that comprehensive reforms to this deeply flawed system are enacted swiftly.

Ultimately, the entries for all current and former HOA members should be easily accessible for free, and the media and other members of the public should be able to take copies and publish the information the register contains.

In its current form, the Register of Interests is not serving the public’s interest as promised.