Chang sets date for independent MOCAFriday, January 22, 2021
Just shy of one year after Parliament affirmed regulations paving the way for the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) to become an independent body, Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang has finally announced a date for the change.
Chang yesterday announced that as of April 1, MOCA will formally and legally be designated an independent agency of his ministry.
“Since its establishment in 2018, MOCA has consistently conducted its investigations and operations with the highest level of quality and integrity, and has always done so independently,” Chang said.
MOCA was formed in August 2014 and brought together the police Anti-Corruption Branch and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force to focus on tackling corruption in the public sector and bringing high-value criminal targets to justice. It was transformed through legislation into an agency in 2018.
Chang pointed out that the Appointed Date Notice is a requirement under the MOCA Act, and is a “crucial step in the establishment of this independent, specialised law enforcement agency”.
According to Chang, yesterday's announcement follows months of collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to finalise the conditions and terms of service for MOCA officers. It comes on the heels of the approval of the MOCA (Code and Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures) Regulations in March 2020.
Chang underscored the importance of the work carried out by MOCA and lauded the agency's successes to date.
“MOCA continues to demonstrate diligence in fulfilling its mandate to target organised crime and corruption, and to investigate and corroborate the evidence necessary to prosecute perpetrators of these serious crimes, including cyber-crimes,” declared Chang.
He further noted MOCA's invaluable role in law enforcement and emphasised that the Appointed Date Notice is a clear indication of the Government's unwavering and uncompromising commitment to addressing the twin problem of crime and corruption in Jamaica.
“This will be done not only by increasing the boots on the ground, but also through the establishment of credible and highly specialised law enforcement institutions, such as MOCA,” said Chang as he indicated that the Appointed Date Notice will soon be gazetted and all other administrative procedures will be established.
The move to make MOCA an independent agency will surely be welcomed by Jamaica's international security partners, especially the United States, which last year used its then top diplomat in the island, then Ambassador Donald Tapia, to chide the Government on the delay.
Tapia had told the Jamaica Observer that the US was convinced the Jamaica could deliver a punishing body blow to corruption if legislators got serious about making MOCA an independent body.
Tapia shared this view with the Observer during a discussion at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue headquarters.
He declared 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.
Tapia pointed to the length of time since the agency's inception and the repeated promises about making it a statutory law enforcement agency that would have operational independence and authority.
“MOCA would be the answer to a lot of the corruption problems,” declared Tapia at the time.