Do we want Corruption Prevention Commission?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011    

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We can well understand the frustration expressed by the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption over the failure of the legislature to act on several of the body's recommendations to curb corruption.

For when public sector workers -- among them people employed to the Inland Revenue Department, Taxpayer Audit and Assessment Department and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) — fall in the category of those who are delinquent in making their statutory declarations, it contributes to an undermining of the Commission's authority.

Indeed, it also makes a mockery of the Commission's mandate when those in breach are spared sanction.

According to the Commission's 2009/2010 report tabled in Parliament last week, as at March 31, 2010 it received 12,342, or just over half, of the 21,166 declarations that were expected for the period ending December 31, 2009.

Among those with the highest delinquency rates over the years 2003-2009, the Commission said, are the Inland Revenue Department, where only 1,532 of the expected 3,689 declarations were filed; the Constabulary, where only 50,013 of the expected 74,013 declarations were filed; the Jamaica Tourist Board, from which only 141 of 475 declarations were filed; the National Works Agency, with only 742 of 1,302 declarations; Petrojam Limited, with 145 of the expected 477; and the Port Authority of Jamaica, where only 199 of the expected 516 declarations were filed.

Others found to be in breach were the Registrar General's Department, with 346 of 758; the South East Regional Health Authority, with only 45 of 450; the Southern Regional Health Authority, with only 72 of the expected 554; the Taxpayer Audit and Assessment Department, with only 1,569 of 3,015; and the University of Technology, with only 298 of 1,415.

What these statistics are clearly saying to us is that a large number of public servants, including those whose remit it is to enforce the law, are themselves contemptuous of the law.

We can't, therefore, fault the Commission for feeling aggrieved by the fact that of the 18,325 delinquent public servants referred to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), charges were being withdrawn against 471. However, without hearing from the DPP the reasons for these withdrawals we cannot make a judgement on that office's decisions.

In fact, we would be surprised if the DPP's decisions in these matters were not informed by good reasons, even though the Commission is of the view that they frustrate its efforts "to reduce corruption".

But even as we accept and respect the DPP's decisions, we cannot sanction the failure of the Parliament to implement the Commission's proposed amendments to the 2000 Corruption (Prevention) Act. In fact, if there is any truth to the Commission's complaint that it has put forward these amendments each year between 2003 and 2007, our legislators have a duty to tell the country why they have ignored these proposals.

We can't, in one breath, declare support for measures to tackle corruption while stifling the effectiveness of an institution established to achieve that ideal.

The Parliament needs to give serious thought and action to the recommendations of the Commission if they genuinely want to rid Jamaica of this scourge.

Otherwise, save us the pretence and the money it costs to run the Commission.





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