Sun | Jul 21, 2019

Jamaica loses ground in fight against corruption

Published:Wednesday | January 30, 2019 | 12:16 AM
Professor Trevor Munroe, head of National Integrity Action.

A plethora of negative national developments in 2018 have factored high on Jamaica’s two-point slip in the rankings of Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI). The country is now ranked 70 out of 180 countries and has a CPI score of 44. Jamaica also scored a CPI of 44 in 2017 and 39 in 2016.

The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public-sector corruption according to experts and business people, uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. A CPI score of below 50 means that a country has a corruption problem.

“This latest ranking, on face value, seems to suggest that we are static. A small slippage, perhaps, but a worrying symbol,” said head of the corruption watchdog group National Integrity Action (NIA), Professor Trevor Munroe.

He said the marginal movement shows that the country still has a far way to go in stamping out corruption.

Munroe cited the impact of the Petrojam scandal, which broke last year on the back of a damning auditor general’s report into its operations, among several other negative developments, as factors that led to the two-point slippage.

“Despite these revelations and despite many resignations of some board members and high-profile management personalities, not one single official associated with the breaches, costing the public hundreds of millions of dollars at Petrojam, has yet been charged or brought before the courts.

“So that was one of the main negative developments. The positive, however, is that public made an outcry, the PAC (Public Accounts Committee) did its work, and the auditor general did her job,” he said.

Transparency International points out that more than two-thirds of countries scored below 50 on this year’s CPI, with an average score of just 43.

“It reveals that the continued failure of most countries to significantly control corruption is contributing to a crisis in democracy around the world. While there are exceptions, the data show that despite some progress, most countries are failing to make serious inroads against corruption,” the international watchdog agency said.

Tangible changes needed

Recalling his own proposals made as part of the NIA’s response to Transparency International CPI’s 2017 report, Munroe noted in his warnings then that if tangible changes were not made in governance issues, there could be slippage. This, he mentioned, had little effect on the drivers of policy.

“Today, unfortunately, our performance does not allow us to welcome good news. Indeed, our performance recalls my caution in February 2018 when we launched the CPI 2017, and what I said then was even with this significant advance,” Munroe said.

He said that corruption can be stemmed, but will require, among other things, bringing the Integrity Commission into full operational capacity.

“Regrettably, nearly a year has passed and the Integrity Commission is not fully operational, and the regulations needed for MOCA to come into effect are yet to be laid in Parliament.

“Similarly, the Procurement Act passed by both Houses of Parliament in October of 2015 has yet to be brought into effect. These are vital pieces of legislation needed in the fight against corruption,” Munroe said.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com