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Greg's grouses

Former contractor general proposes 21-point plan to tackle corruption

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, March 23, 2014    

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GEORGE TOWN, Grand Cayman — Jamaica's former contractor general Greg Christie has put forward a 21-point plan which he believes Caribbean governments could use to kick corruption in the groin.

Christie, who was speaking at a Cayman Islands University College-organised conference on corruption, called 'A Conference on Ethics, Values, Trust and Morality', in this British dependency Friday, said that the time had come for those Caribbean governments that are serious about tackling corruption to employ "remedial counter-measures that can be pursued".

Calling his proposal the 21 high level lessons learnt-based anti-corruption strategies, Christie told an attentive audience of university students, professionals and visitors from several countries that it is important for Caribbean jurisdictions, including Jamaica, that are perceived as corrupt, to start changing gears now.

"They must do so immediately and they must do so by setting in place visible, measurable, comprehensive and effective institutional best-practice arrangements for combating corruption and bribery," he argued.

"If ruling administrations refuse, or fail in the public interest, to rapidly and decisively bring about the requisite changes, they must be pressured into action. They should be held to account by the Opposition, the citizenry, civil society, the Church, the independent media, international development partners and/or the multilateral lending community," Christie said.

Among his recommendations was the establishment of a single independent anti-corruption State agency, with specialist resources, and having exclusive criminal investigations and prosecutorial jurisdiction, with full police powers of arrest and detention over all corruption offences. That, he said, was critical.

Continuing, he said that the setting up of an independent procurement regulator to monitor and investigate the award of government contracts, sub-contracts and licences, with the objective of ensuring probity, transparency, competition and value for money in the same awards, was also key.

"It is imperative that the regulator be given the power to halt proposed awards in instances of suspected irregularity or impropriety," Christie insisted.

(There is a need to) "Establish a corruption court to adjudicate all corruption-related offences. In the alternative, give priority to corruption cases in the prevailing courts system," he went on.

The senior attorney-at-law, now a consultant, also called on regional governments to "strengthen and enhance the independence, effectiveness, accountability and competence levels of existing anti-corruption institutions, and take all requisite measures to insulate them from government, political or third-party influence, direction or interference".

Also listed in his recommendations is a need to legislate minimum standards of integrity and good-governance conduct for politicians and public officials, and enforce that by way of impeachment provisions.

He also wants the imposition of "significantly tougher criminal sanctions, inclusive of minimum or mandatory custodial and economic-based penalties, for all corruption offences, (as well as imposing) "added sanctions, inclusive of the imposition of term bans from office, and forfeiture of pensions, in the case of public officers who are found guilty of corruption, or breach of prescribed good-governance and integrity standards".

Christie, who left the Office of Contractor General in November 2012, after serving in that capacity for seven years, is also arguing for the imposing of tough criminal and civil sanctions upon private sector entities for the bribery of public officials, as well as a requirement for them to develop, implement and enforce company-wide anti-bribery compliance programmes.

Among his other suggestions are to:

* Legislate appropriate political donation and campaign finance laws;

* Continuously review anti-corruption laws to cauterise loopholes, criminalise new developments in corrupt behaviour, and elevate existing sanctions, where necessary, to deter unwanted conduct;

* Establish national and regional public registers of corporate beneficial ownership;

* Implement a national (and regional) system for the certification, de-certification, debarment and cross-debarment of government contractors who engage in fraudulent practices or who consistently fail to perform their contracts to the required standard;

* Require the public filing and disclosure of assets, income and liabilities for all parliamentarians, politicians and critical-level public officials;

* Implement a minimum one-year public sector to private sector 'revolving door' ban for certain classifications of public officers;

* Develop and deploy a mandatory two- to three-hour ethics, public trust, and anti-corruption online course to be taken by all public sector employees and supplement it with annual follow-up refresher courses;

* Introduce a mandatory ethics, corruption prevention and corruption educational module on the curricula of all primary, high and tertiary level educational institutions;

* Develop and administer a national community-based corruption prevention and corruption awareness educational programme;

* Appoint an ethics/good-governance/anti-corruption cabinet minister;

* Establish a national (and regional) anti-corruption/anti-bribery policy development advisory council; and

* Implement 'open government' concepts, and conduct and publish annual performance surveys of national anti-corruption institutions.

The conference, which began on Monday, saw over 120 participants speaking on corruption as it relates to various disciplines in the society.

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