Tue | Jun 25, 2019

Trevor Munroe | Stop the high level corruption: Appoint the Director of Corruption Prosecutions and Investigations

Published:Sunday | May 12, 2019 | 12:20 AM
Dirk Harrison
Professor Trevor Munroe
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On January 17, 2019, a few days before the Corruption Perception Index 2018 revealed that Jamaica had fallen two places in global rank, an urgent and comprehensive appeal for integrity in the private and public sector was made by the president of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), Metry Seaga, at a Rotary Club of Kingston luncheon.

Metry Seaga said, “Corruption sucks five per cent of GDP annually from the Jamaican economy. This is US$738 million of OUR hard-earned money (my emphasis). “This repeated an assessment made in Jamaica’s National Security Policy 2013, “The economy is now at best one-third of the size it should have been, it may be only one-tenth of the size it could have been.” Hence the conclusion that corruption and its twin evil, organised crime, is the number one threat to the livelihood of every Jamaican.

This, of course, is not a unique Jamaican problem. The president of the WorldBank, in December 2013, described corruption as “public enemy number one”. The WorldBank Institute pointed out that improvement on the control of corruption and the rule of law can bring about, in the long run, a fourfold increase in per capita income. All other things being equal, each Jamaican could multiply his income four times, were we to better control this cancer.

Experience is demonstrating that to cure this disease requires a coalition, including civil society organisations and the private sector, an assertive and aware public, concerned international partners and public officials of integrity, all prepared to stand up to their corrupt colleagues. Among the category of public officials, the investigators and prosecutors are now being called upon to take the lead in challenging the impunity of the corrupt in high places. Hence:

- Five years ago, prosecutors and judges sent five members of the British Parliament to prison for abuse of parliamentary cash allowances.

- In 2017, Brazil’s federal police filed new charges against former President Michelle Temer.

- Last year October, former Malaysian Prime Minister Nazib Razak and his top treasury official were charged with six counts of criminal breach of trust involving US$1.58 billion.

- In the years prior 2018 also, 18 of the 20 biggest banks in Europe, including Barclays, HSBC and others, were fined for money laundering.

- Earlier this year, Tokyo prosecutors indicted former Nissan motor chairman, Carlos Ghosn, with financial misconduct.

- Between 2016 and 2018, four ministers – one each from Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados – were investigated and charged with various corruption-related offences.

What do we find in Jamaica?

The last time a government minister was charged was in February 2008 despite the National Security Policy for Jamaica (NSPJ) concluding that corruption of elected and public officials is the number one danger. Further, our National Security Policy tells us that “the focus has to shift from street-level criminals to the top bosses …the facilitators ... the politicians, lawyers, accountants, bankers, businessmen, real estate brokers … who operate in both the licit and illicit worlds” (page 29). The official policy document continues, t argeting the top bosses and their facilitators is therefore the most effective way to degrade criminal networks, seize their assets, and undermine their power” (page. 29-30).

Metry Seaga seems to agree. “We need,” he said, “stern actions that litigate corruption and send solid, clear, and unified messages to these criminals, especially the ones in suit and tie , that we will not continue to stand for the defilement of the country’s welfare.”

But exposure of the continued defilement takes place on a daily basis. Note The Observer Thursday, May 9, 2019 story, ‘US$150,000 spent on consultancy could be sourced internally, PAC told’. The Daily Gleaner May 8, 2019, ‘Documents disappear in Petrojam’s cash splash: $96m contract raises questions, says Permanent Secretary’.

In case any of us forgot, Section 13 subsection 3 d) of Jamaica’s Charter of Fundamental Rights gives each of us “the right to seek, receive information” on what is being done to investigate and prosecute these and other matters related to Petrojam. Reports indicate that prosecutors are getting results.

TRANSPARENCY REQUIRES AN EXPLANATION

In Jamaica, instead of the Office of Director of Corruption Prosecution being operationalised, “There is a perception… that there was an attempt, to put it crudely, to throw him [the acting Director of Corruption Prosecution] under the bus” (Editorial, Daily Gleaner, May 6, 2019).

The acting director of corruption prosecution involved, Dirk Harrison, was previously Jamaica’s contractor general, who assumed office on March 1, 2013. Since his appointment, the contractor general, as he was then, conducted 25 investigation reports. These reports, inter alia, included negative findings against councillors, members of parliament and ministers of the People’s National Party (2012-2016) administration, and most recently, members of parliament, and ministers of the present Jamaica Labour Party administration.

In none of the five investigation reports issued since February 22, 2018, when the OCG was subsumed into the newly established Integrity Commission, did the commissioners find it necessary to certify the objectivity, or otherwise, of any of those reports.

In three of these reports, the OCG arrived at negative findings in respect of institutions and individuals. Yet in none of these instances were individuals or institutions impugned provided with the entire report (which would have included their comments) and thereafter had further remarks tabled simultaneously in Parliament.

On the face of it, therefore, there is inconsistency in the commission’s treatment of the report relating to the Rooms on the Beach property sale. Transparency requires an explanation. More importantly, that principle requires an explanation as to why Jamaica has no director of corruption prosecutions nor director of investigations, one year, two months and twenty days after the establishment of the Integrity Commission Act.

The need for these appointments becomes even more compelling as corruption continues to “suck” our people’s money, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has now aligned itself with the Jamaican people in, “ensuring that the newly created Integrity Commission is properly staffed and empowered to carry out its functions, including the investigation and prosecution of alleged or suspected acts of corruption” (pg. 12).

 

- Professor Trevor Munroe, CD, DPhil (Oxon), is the executive director of National Integrity Action (NIA). Email feedback to tmunroe@niajamaica.org and columns@gleanerjm.com