JAMAICA has slipped one place on Transparency International's (TI) corruption rankings, but, in the meantime, the number of whistleblowers has grown six-fold, says anti-corruption activist Professor Trevor Munroe.
“Whereas in 2020 we had very few whistleblowers, this multiplied six-fold in 2021,” Dr Munroe told a virtual press briefing hosted by his National Integrity Action (NIA) in Kingston, Tuesday.
However, as he suggested, while an increasing number of Jamaicans were willing to tell on others, the country slipped from 69 in 2020 to 70 in 2021 with a score of 44, although it remained fifth among regional countries which had fallen behind in terms of reducing corrupt practices in both its public and private sector.
The Protected Disclosures (Whistle Blower) Act, 2011, encourages disclosures regarding improper conduct in the interest of the public. Transparency International is a global coalition of some 180 countries against corruption
The new 2021 rankings released by TI on Monday showed that Jamaica held firm in the corruption perception index (CPI) with a score 44 in a system ranging from a high performance of “zero” to low of 100 and ranked the island at 70th out of 180 moving from 69th in the 2020 rankings.
Jamaica also remained the fifth most corrupt country in the Caribbean behind Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago. Barbados was ranked as the least corrupt in the region with a score of 65 out of 100 and a ranking of 29th out of 180 countries.
Munroe insisted that there is a need to continue the current momentum, “so that we dislodge and hold to account the corrupt persons, who continue to benefit from our under-development and from our poverty and the levels of inequality”.
“Where the political will is not where it should be, where it is fractured or weak, professional will, technological incompetence, commitment to doing what is right, whatever the cost amongst our public officers with responsibility for enforcing the law, becomes that much more important,” he stated.
“We see that in so many areas of our public agencies, but others are logging, and we have a role to play. We have done it over the years, many training sessions with public officers, investigators, prosecutors, sensitisation of appeal court judges, and judges in the judiciary. What we need is to get more done, and we are happy to see that there is clearly a growing tendency of our public officials to stand up and enforce the law,” he added.
In a direct reference to recent issues involving local developers and the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) over building breaches in the Corporate Area, Munroe said it shows that citizens are now seeing that they have a vested interest in coming forward as they never did before, in order to ensure that the law is applicable to real estate developments, and approvals are observed.
“So when you see that your personal interest is being harmed by corrupt acts, that, I think, is what is accounting for more people becoming whistleblowers, so that we are seeing the public officers are being pressured appropriately to observe and apply the law, by citizens becoming more aware of how corrupt acts impinge negatively on their survival,” he said.