Jamaica remains in same position on perceived corruption index

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 31, 2019

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JAMAICA continues to rank among countries that fail to make serious inroads against corruption, scoring 44 out of 100 where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2018.

Watchdog group Transparency International said its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2018, released yesterday, showed that the continued failure of most countries to significantly control corruption is contributing to a crisis in democracy around the world.

More than two-thirds of the 180 countries ranked scored below 50, with an average score of just 43. The index ranks countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people.

“The position is that we mustn't beat up on ourselves. We have not done as well as we should, but we've not done badly in the sense that the score still remains the same as 44. It means that we have not done enough to [improve] the score so that we would probably rise in the index. What it indicates more than anything else is that other countries are doing better in the fight against corruption than we are. It means therefore that we need to increase, improve [and] work even harder so that the corruption index for us can improve,” Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said yesterday at the National Integrity Action (NIA) press conference called to discuss the report in New Kingston.

The reported cited the Petrojam scandal, which led to the resignation of former Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley, stating that it shows that nepotism, mismanagement of public funds, and other forms of corruption are still well-rooted in the island and wider Caribbean.

It also said procurement and contract awarding are particularly problematic, as in the case of Petrojam, the company could not account for approximately US$40 million in income between 2013 and 2018.

“What is needed is for more activism in terms of our fight against corruption and I know from where I sit that we have zero tolerance against corruption... One of the problems in our governance is that a minister takes responsibility for everything that goes wrong under his jurisdiction. But you're told that ministers are responsible for policies and to not get involved in administration – so ministers are not involved in administration at all,” Chuck said.

“A minister sits at his desk drawing policies and not getting into the day-to-day operation of what is happening in the different agencies. Who is responsible for getting that information to the minister? So the minister only hears when things go right or when it goes wrong. From where I sit, I know that there is a fair amount of corruption in many different departments, including agencies of government. How does the minister control that? He exposes it,” added Chuck.

The minister stressed that unless the public has a zero-tolerance approach towards corruption and is prepared to overcome the “informa fi dead” culture and expose ministers, policymakers and department heads, among others, corruption will persist.

“The people of this country must be prepared to expose corruption wherever it occurs – let heads roll if necessary. But far too many of our people feel a nuh nothing, and the end result is that they partake. Corruption is a drain not only on the resources of the country but it contributes enormously to crime,” Chuck mentioned, adding that the justice ministry will be partnering with the NIA to expose and eliminate corruption.

Of the 13 Caribbean countries ranked, Jamaica fell behind Barbados, The Bahamas, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, St Lucia, Grenada, and Cuba as the least perceived corrupt Caribbean countries. At the same time, the country ranked above Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Dominican Republic, and Haiti. Denmark is the country least perceived as being corrupt, while Somalia is perceived as the most corrupt country out of the 180 ranked. The United States, for the first time since 2011, fell outside of the top 20 least perceived corrupt countries.

The NIA, in responding to the country's CPI ranking, said that in order to improve the ranking, the private sector, the church, and citizens must redouble efforts in developing new partnerships of integrity and coalitions against corruption.

NIA Executive Director Professor Trevor Munroe noted that along with the controversy surrounding the operations at Petrojam, the Auditor General Department's (AGD) Special Investigation into the National Insurance Fund/Ministry of Labour and Social Security; unexplained delay by the Office of the Prime Minister in tabling parliamentary reports relating to statutory declarations of assets, incomes and liabilities of Parliamentarians; no or slow prosecutions for illicit enrichment; and the AGD's Annual Report for 2018, tabled earlier this month, which he said revealed breaches of procurement guidelines as “a common weakness”, also contributed to the current ranking.

However, he noted that some “positive factors” put a brake on the negative developments as many ministries, departments and agencies collaborated with the NIA, utilising support from the United States Agency for International Development in seeking to strengthen the anti-corruption capacity of public entities.

Munroe also noted that the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches, among others, “raised their voices against corruption, called for strengthening of integrity, and put forward proposals to enhance good governance, publicly and in meetings with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips”.


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