Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Trevor Munroe | Change formula and action agenda

Published:Sunday | July 2, 2017 | 7:00 AM

Experience, here in Jamaica and further afield, teaches the formula for positive change in combating corruption and in strengthening good governance. It is this TL + CD + IS = PC, where TL is transformational leadership (political, professional, business, civil society), CD is citizen demand; IS is international support, and PC is positive change. One or another element may lead, but each needs to be above a certain threshold.

For example, since 1979, Jamaica has produced positive change in moving its election administration from among the worst in the world to state of the art because of citizen demand, reflected in the work of Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE); international support, epitomised in the observer missions, starting with the Carter Center; and transformational leadership, if somewhat belatedly, from Edward Seaga and Michael Manley; as well as professionalism in the leadership of the Electoral Advisory Committee (now the Electoral Commission of Jamaica) by persons such as Professors Gladstone Mills and Errol Miller and Dorothy Pine-McLarty.

Similarly, positive change has led Jamaica to be number one in the world in terms of women occupying management positions because of citizen demand generated by organisations such as the Joint Committee for Women's Rights, including women of all political persuasions who galvanised broad support for transformational legislation such as the Maternity Leave Act of 1979.

Also, in terms of our fiscal management, international support led in partnership with political and business leadership to reduce the corruption-vulnerable discretion of the minister of finance to grant tax waivers to favoured businesses and, ultimately, to move Jamaica from number 96 to number 21 in the world in relation to budget deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product.

At the community level, in districts like Petersfield in Westmoreland, it is transformational leadership of the kind provided by persons like Mathias Brown, JP, that develops and sustains in the midst of crime hot spots a zone of peace, with international support for a village tourism project coming from hundreds of professors, students, and their parents studying, living, working, and contributing to community well-being.

This change formula now needs to be more systematically applied to strengthening integrity and combating corruption - Jamaica's number-one threat - in implementing the agenda for going forward. That agenda has four critical components:

New law: The political leadership must move more urgently in bringing into effect campaign-finance regulations, which would, among other things, outlaw big government contractors giving kickbacks to the political party in return for contracts improperly awarded. Similarly, party registration regulations must be brought into effect to require political parties on an annual basis to declare their source of funding to the Electoral Commission.

 

International support

 

Very important, international support must be provided for the speedy establishment of the proposed Integrity Commission, with a special prosecutor who would focus exclusively on bringing the corrupt to justice. The Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) must be granted autonomy from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and must target high-level corruption among the 'facilitators' who smuggle illegal weapons into the country, who assist in laundering money in real estate transactions, who take bribes in order to grant construction and building permits that ought to be turned down.

Law enforcement: The investigators, the prosecutors, the parish judges, the Supreme Court justices, the appeal court judges must all provide leadership as professionals prepared to act with courage, without fear or favour, in going after organised crime and corruption as the number-one impediment to Jamaica becoming the 'place to live, work, do business, and raise families'. The incompetent, timid, and corrupt must be identified, weeded out, and punished.

Resocialising our youth: In schools and communities, integrity training in personal and civic responsibility must be enhanced. The Ministry of Education, principals and teachers, community leaders and church pastors, youth clubs, citizens' associations, parents and guardians need to be provided with the necessary materials and training to partner in developing a diverse movement for integrity, focused on the youth.

Strengthened citizen demand: When our citizens come together, stand up, speak out, and organise, positive results do ensue.

Witness the removal of the inappropriate statue of Marcus Garvey from the Mona campus; the suspension of oppressive and unconscionable bank fees on depositors; the charges brought against murderers through Crime Stop such as in the recently concluded Peter Vogel case; the investigations triggered by anonymous reports to the Office of the Contractor General, leading to criminal charges. More promotion of reporting mechanisms, more investigative reporting by journalists, and more conscious lyrics by artists must play a bigger role in awareness building.

In moving Jamaica forward, it is critical that our leaders (political, professional, business, and civic), our citizens, and our international partners learn the formula for positive change and apply it to the agenda for action.

- Professor Trevor Munroe is executive director of National Integrity Action. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.