US ambassador goes to bat for MOCA

US ambassador goes to bat for MOCA

Tapia says a truly independent agency could be answer to a lot of Jamaica's corruption problems

BY VERNON DAVIDSON
Executive editor — publications
davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 17, 2020

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AMERICA'S top diplomat in Jamaica, Ambassador Donald Tapia, believes the island can deliver a punishing body blow to corruption if legislators get serious about tabling regulations to make the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) an independent body.

Tapia shared this view with Jamaica Observer reporters and editors in a discussion at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue headquarters in St Andrew last Tuesday afternoon, adding that it was his impression that successive governments here have not done enough to combat corruption. However, he was convinced that both sides have good intentions.

MOCA was formed in 2014 as an elite agency with a mandate to tackle corruption in the public sector and bring high-profile criminal targets to justice.

Noting the length of time since the agency's inception, Ambassador Tapia pointed to the fact that there was still talk about tabling the regulations that will give effect to the provisions of the MOCA Act, which include making it a statutory law enforcement agency that will have operational independence and authority.

“We know that it was placed on the table when it was voted on, but yet we don't have the regulations and so forth to implement it in the full context of what MOCA is supposed to be,” Tapia said. “MOCA would be the answer to a lot of the corruption problems.”

Last year May, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang had told the Canadian Association of Police Polygraphists Region 7 Conference, at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, that he expected the MOCA regulations to be tabled in “a couple of weeks”.

However, that timetable was not realised and last month it emerged that the failure to table the regulations was one of the factors that influenced Jamaica's slippage on Transparency International's 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

The CPI, which was released on January 23, showed Jamaica slipping four places since 2018 to 74 of the 180 countries ranked. The island recorded a CPI score of 43 this year, a slight slip from the 44 recorded last year.

Last Tuesday, Ambassador Tapia, arguing that transparency was important as well in the fight against corruption, said: “Corruption in government is very simple; make sure that everything that is done is transparent — that removes corruption. As long as you don't have transparency, you have corruption. There's no way you can get around it because you can buy your way in and buy your way out.”

He said in the United States the spending of Government money must be made transparent, as the money really belongs to the people and the Government is merely the steward of those funds.

Asked to respond to criticism that he has been meddling in Jamaica's internal affairs, Tapia said: “Well, when I hear that I actually have to ask where, where are we dabbling?”

He said his comments on corruption have pulled the issue from the sideline back to the national platform.

“We're now looking at corruption. We're looking at what needs to be done and some of the things that need to be taking place,” he said.

“I truly believe that I'm here as a guest. I'm not here to determine who is your Government and who is not going to be your Government, and I have made that perfectly clear. I'm not going to permit anybody to pull us into the encounter between the two parties. That's not our position. We are guests here, and we will work with both sides,” Tapia said.


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