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Integrity Commission eyes corruption in the private sector

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, July 24, 2020

HEAD of the Integrity Commission Greg Christie says he will be seeking clarification on legislative provisions which the commission believes significantly broadens its mandate to include monitoring corruption in the private sector.

He called attention to the matter at this week's meeting of the Integrity Commission oversight committee.

Christie noted that though the focus of the commission has so far been on corruption in the public sector, “we believe that the legislation, broadly interpreted, extends to corruption in the private sector, and to that extent we would have to develop a revised organisational structure down the toll road, which gives the Integrity Commission the organisational capacity to deal with that”.

“Let's say you have a private sector entity that's procuring something and there are four private sector suppliers, but they choose the one who is related to the brother of the procurement officer, then that's corruption; but between two private sector entities, do we have jurisdiction?” he said, pointing to section 2(b) of the Integrity Commission Act, which outlines that: “...unless the content otherwise requires, 'an act of corruption' means an act which constitutes an offence relating to the conduct of any person that constitutes an abuse or misuse of his office [whether or not within the public sector] for the purpose of conferring a benefit or an advantage to himself or another person, being an offence arising under the common law or any enactment.”

Christie said there is, therefore, a supposition that the commission's powers extend beyond the public sector to transactions between private entities.

In the meantime, he indicated that the commission has dialogued with at least one private sector group about adopting an anti-bribery protocol for the sector. He said the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) reached out to the commission.

“They were interested to know how they could assist the Integrity Commission in the discharge of its mandate,” he said.

The executive director said the JCC has accepted his proposal for the ISO37001 — a corporate anti-bribery standard/management system — to be adopted by its membership, and that the hope is that the international standard can be implemented across the private sector, generally.

Christie noted that this could make a positive impression on the country's corruption perception index.

He stressed that the commission cannot function on its own, and needs the support of all stakeholders within and outside the public sector, bolstered by a robust education and awareness campaign aimed at corruption prevention.

JCC President Lloyd Distant says corruption does extend to the private sector, and that he believes the scourge should be weeded out wherever it is found. He also believes a strong bribery act, such as the United Kingdom's, would be useful for Jamaica.

“We know that private individuals are involved. I think it would be na´ve to think that private sector people aren't [involved] as well,” he said in an Observer interview.

Distant noted that the JCC has examined a number of the measures being recommended by the international chambers of commerce, and that coming out of the discussions with the Integrity Commission, the chamber agrees that ISO37001 should be adopted by Jamaican businesses.

“So we are coming out with a programme where we will be encouraging Jamaican businesses to adopt ISO37001, and will provide institutional capacity and support to assist these businesses to adopt the standard,” he disclosed.

ISO37001 enables organisations to prevent, detect and address bribery by adopting an anti-bribery policy. Under the anti-bribery management system, individuals are designated to oversee anti-bribery compliance, training, risk assessments, and due diligence on projects and business associates. Financial and commercial controls are also implemented alongside reporting mechanisms.