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corruption crackdown

Published:Thursday | February 19, 2015 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
Professor Trevor Munroe, director of the corruption watchdog group National Integrity Action.

A senior official at the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) is among more than 70 public-sector employees expected to be hauled before the court today in a fresh crackdown by the Corruption Prevention Commission (CPC) on public servants accused ignoring their responsibility to file statutory declarations on time.

Government sources revealed last night that 72 public servants, including 44 employed at the central bank, have been summoned to appear in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court to answer to charges of failing to file statutory declarations.

According to one source, they are accused of not filing any declaration for different periods during the last three years.

The Corruption Prevention Act stipulates that each year, several categories of public-sector employees are required to furnish the Corruption Prevention Commission (CPC) with all particulars of their assets, liabilities and incomes, as well as those of their spouses and children, where applicable.

Where the commission believes, after examining a declaration, that additional information is required, it is empowered under the act to request additional documents and information from a declarant.

However, the CPC, which was created in 2001 to help stamp out corruption in the public sector, has revealed that the number of public servants flouting this requirement has jumped from 25 per cent at the end of December 2003 to 52 per cent as at December 2012.

In its 2012-2013 report to Parliament, the CPC revealed that 16,216 of the 31,132 eligible public-sector employees did not file a statutory declaration for 2012.

According to the report, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), the Jamaica Defence Force, Tax Administration Jamaica, the University of Technology, and the Ministry of Education accounted for the largest number of outstanding declarations.

In 2013, the CPC launched a major crackdown against members of the JCF, hauling 48 police personnel - varying in ranks from constable to senior superintendent - before the courts for the offence.

Since then, the JCF has instituted a system where members are barred from being promoted if they have outstanding statutory declarations.

In the case of the education ministry, the report noted that of the 4,589 declarations that were expected in 2012, only 40 were submitted.

"As you can see, there remains a high incidence of outstanding declarations," the report underscored.

insufficient sanction

Professor Trevor Munroe, director of the corruption watchdog group National Integrity Action (NIA), argued yesterday that insufficient sanction for breaches of the act could be one of the reasons for the high number of non-compliance.

"Maybe when the breach is committed, there has not been sufficient sanctions applied, and therefore, people don't take it seriously," he posited.

Munroe, who had to file declarations for 10 years when he served as a government senator, said the "very tedious" process to file declarations and the society's insufficient knowledge as to its importance were other reasons for the high rate of non-compliance.

Despite this, the NIA director underscored that filing statutory declarations was important as it "allows the authorities to discern, over a period of time, the extent to which a public servant's assets and liabilities match - or are disproportionate to - their known legal sources of income".

"When there is a considerable disconnect between the known earnings of the public servant and the assets, then there is a basis to investigate the extent to which there may be an issue of what is called illicit enrichment," he sought to explain.

"This is a standard tool and it should be taken seriously and regarded as an important device to ensure integrity in our public service and among our public servants," Munroe added.