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Commission for the Prevention of Corruption goes after more public servants

Published:Wednesday | February 25, 2015 | 2:00 AMLivern Barrett

A week after more than 50 public sector employees pleaded guilty to not filing statutory declarations for various periods in the last three years, the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC) has warned that another crackdown is imminent.

Executive director of the CPC David Grey revealed yesterday that the commission is "going to start looking at another set of public servants for delinquency action".

The latest move - one of several initiatives to be undertaken by the CPC - comes amid concerns that there is a culture of impunity among public servants who are required to file statutory declarations each year.

"Some are deeply embedded in their ways, and the only way you can jolt them is when they realise that the matter is not just an academic exercise, but it can bring legal consequences as well," Grey warned.

Last Thursday, 74 public-sector employees, including senior deputy governor of the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) John Robinson, appeared before the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court on summonses for failing to file statutory declarations for various periods in the last three years.

The CPC said Robinson - one of 43 BOJ employees summoned - and 50 others pleaded guilty and were each fined between $3,000 and $5,000 - or a total of $500,000.

The remaining 23, which includes a superintendent of police, are scheduled to return to court on May 18.

stamping out corruption

The Corruption Prevention Act stipulates that each year, public servants who earn more than $2 million annually are required to furnish the CPC with details of their assets, liabilities, and incomes, as well as those of their spouses and children, where applicable.

However, the CPC, which was created in 2001 to help stamp out corruption in the public sector, has revealed that the number of persons 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 annual report to Parliament, the CPC revealed that of the 31,132 declarations that were due in 2012, only 14,916 were received. The report also revealed that 85,396 of the 224,290 declarations due since its inception remain outstanding.

The CPC executive director believes that lack of awareness among public servants is the primary reason for the low rate of compliance.

As an example, he pointed to one group of public-sector employees earning more than the $2-million threshold who have raised questions about whether they are required to file declarations.

As a result, he said apart from court action, the commission is undertaking a public education programme across all government ministries, departments, and agencies.

"In December, we would have written to all of the public sector agencies telling them about the need to file, and we supply them with the forms," he revealed.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com