Columns

NIA shall not be distracted

TREVOR MUNROE

Sunday, February 09, 2014    

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In reading Gary Rowe's letter headlined 'Who watches the watchdog' (Daily Observer, February 6, 2014) I am reminded that many of our Jamaican households (perhaps even Gary Rowe's) have watchdogs because, regrettably, there are too many robbers who would break into the house were there no good watchdogs.

Beyond that, each householder knows that distracting the watchdog — using a piece of meat, a decoy sound or by frightening him — is one way the wrongdoer makes the dog less effective and the yard more vulnerable. Far be it for me to suggest that this is Gary Rowe's intent. But let him and others be clear, neither me nor National Integrity Action (NIA) shall be distracted from working with the Jamaican people to ensure that:

* Licences, like that proposed for EWI, are granted in accordance with the most thorough due diligence and that we are not left, literally and metaphorically, in the dark, unable, two years from now, to pay electricity bills at exorbitant rates when the preferred bidder promised 12.8 cents per kilowatt hour.

* Big money is no longer paid secretly to political parties by persons, some subsequently convicted of financial crimes and money laundering, like David Smith, nor by rich people who may receive in return tax waivers, development approvals or permits against the public's interest.

* The corrupt in high places be subject, by a special anti-corruption commission, to investigation and prosecution just like the man in the street and not enjoy impunity because of their power and contacts.

In these and other endeavours to combat corruption and thereby help to raise the standards of living of the Jamaican people, a recent poll (Global Corruption Barometer, 2013) indicated that 77 per cent of the Jamaican people are willing to join us. I hope Gary Rowe is one of these. If not, I would invite him and others to be part of building an integrity movement.

As far as Gary Rowe's call goes "to make a full disclosure on how the organisation is financed and furthermore how the funds garnered are spent", we can hardly disclose what is not a secret. NIA's audited financial statement for 2011/2012 is available to the public through the Companies Office. The 2012/2013 is in draft stage and will become available as soon as it is finalised and filed.

Our Incorporation Certificate and Articles of Association are available at the Companies Office of Jamaica as well as the Return (Form 19B) that has to be filed annually. We were incorporated as a Not-for-Profit (NFP) with the name NIAL, got the licence to remove the "L" from the name, and subsequently applied for and received approval to become a charitable organisation that is governed by the Charitable Organisation Act and Charitable Organisation's (Tax Harmonisation) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2013.

So much for NIA's disclosure.

What about our political parties? Should they not be registered and be required by law "to make a full disclosure on how the organisation is financed and furthermore how the funds garnered are spent?" We would invite Gary Rowe and citizens of goodwill to lend their voices to this call by NIA and others.

The Bill to require this registration has now been over two years in the making. As of now, yet another promise has been made by the current Administration to table, debate and pass the law by March 31, 2014. Can it be acceptable that political parties which, unlike NIA, form the government — and which thereby have the power to impose taxes, provide or fail to provide roads and water supplies, who equip or fail to equip our security forces, etc — remain private entities like a youth club?

For any further disclosure about NIA, eg regarding the biographical details of our board members — Professor Anthony Harriott, Joseph M Matalon, Danny Roberts, Eurica Douglas, Martin Henry and myself — regarding our partners and sponsors, we invite Gary Rowe and others to visit our website and get involved in bringing about more effective combat of corruption, regarded by our people, by investors, and by the international community alike as one of the major roadblocks to Jamaica's development.

— Professor Trevor Munroe is the executive director of National Integrity Action

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