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Senior staff reporter

Friday, January 29, 2021

National Integrity Action (NIA) Principal Director Professor Trevor Munroe is dismissing as idiotic and pathetic comments in the public sphere intimating that he and the watchdog group he heads is responsible for Jamaica continually being pigeonholed among the most corrupt countries in the world by global corruption monitoring body Transparency International.

“Neither Trevor Munroe nor National Integrity Action influences or determines Jamaica's CPI (Corruption Perceptions Index) [ranking] as has been absurdly alleged in some ridiculous social media posts,” he said in a statement issued to the media in which he presented the NIA's assessment of the data.

He pointed out that the CPI draws on and is a composite of 13 data sources from 12 independent institutions specialising in governance and business climate analysis.

“For a country to be included in the CPI, in any year, at least three of these independent institutions shall have had to provide a score over the previous two years for that particular country,” Munroe said.

The just-released 2020 CPI shows Jamaica midway on the corruption bar; scoring 44 out of 100 and ranking 69 out of 180 countries. For 2019, the country scored 43 out of 100 and ranked 74 out of 180 countries, while for 2018 it scored 44 out of 100 and ranked 70 out of the 180 countries.

The index scores countries and territories from zero to 100, with zero being highly corrupt and 100 being very clean by Transparency International's perceived levels of public sector corruption.

In his statement yesterday, Munroe noted that in Jamaica's case seven of the 13 institutions provided a score on the basis of which the composite was calculated.

These, he said, are: The Economist Intelligence Unit, The Global Insight Country Risk Ratings, The World Economic Forum, The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index, The PRS International Country Risk Guide, The Varieties of Democracy Project, and The Bertelsmann Foundation Transformation Index.

“Each of these sources and surveys of experts ask the respondents questions which are based on carefully designed and calibrated questionnaires. Transparency International experts in Berlin simply compile and aggregate the scores for each individual country to arrive at a composite. No individual chapter of Transparency International determines or even influences the score or the ranking for that particular country,” he added.

He said that while Jamaica has moved marginally up and down the index over the years, it has “remained in the absolutely unsatisfactory situation of being among the most corrupt, especially at a time when we need to make sure that every dollar counts”.

Pointing out that Jamaica has continued to “tread water beneath the surface of integrity”, Munroe said “CPI 2018 saw us stagnant at score 44; CPI 2019 showed slippage to 43 and now CPI 2020 has Jamaica's score marginally improved to 44, with 68 countries performing better than us, including comparable Caricom states such as Barbados, The Bahamas, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, Dominica, and Grenada which all score above 50. Indeed, in the Caribbean, only Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Haiti score less than we do”.

He said in Jamaica's case, as has become the custom over the years, “there were some significant positives, but these, in large measure, were cancelled out by negative developments during the year”.

The positives, he said, included among other things: the relatively transparent administration of the COVID-19 relief package, the trial and conviction of a number of Manchester Municipal Corporation officers in one of the most significant corruption trials within recent years, and the relatively free and fair general election of 2020.

He, however, said these gains were eclipsed by “significant minuses, some of them chronic, including significant irregularities in the award and supervision of road construction contracts revealed in performance reports by the auditor general, the inordinate delay in passing legislation to strengthen Jamaica's anti-corruption framework, the disclosure in the annual report of the auditor general of billions in taxpayer money at risk in ministries, department and agencies, most notably the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the repeated delays in the commencement of the trial of [former education] Minister [Ruel] Reid, et al on corruption-related charges, and the absence of disclosure of any prosecution arising from the Integrity Commission's investigations into irregularities at the State-owned oil refinery Petrojam.

“Jamaica can and urgently needs to pull itself above the pass mark of 50, below which we have been stuck for the last 10 years,” Munroe said. “In order for this to be done, power at all levels from top to bottom, but beginning at the top must be held to account for the common good. Many of the steps necessary are already on the agenda.”

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