Wed | Mar 3, 2021

Private sector to lobby for tougher anti-corruption laws

Published:Saturday | February 6, 2021 | 1:16 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter

The leading private-sector groups in Jamaica are getting ready to lead a strong lobby of the Government to craft and promulgate legislation similar to the United Kingdom’s 2010 Bribery Act as part of efforts to reduce or eliminate corruption in the...

The leading private-sector groups in Jamaica are getting ready to lead a strong lobby of the Government to craft and promulgate legislation similar to the United Kingdom’s 2010 Bribery Act as part of efforts to reduce or eliminate corruption in the country.

Already, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), which is leading the charge on behalf of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, has held meetings with the Integrity Commission as the groups embark on plans to implement anti-bribery measures throughout the country’s business sector.

Director of the JCC, Colonel Jaimie Ogilvie, said that discussions were also being held with the Bureau of Standards Jamaica as the membership of the private sector bodies takes steps to institute the ISO 37001 anti-bribery standard.

But Ogilvie reasoned that while voluntary initiatives to adapt ISO 37001 standards were crucial, there was also the need to pursue legislative measures to address bribery.

“We don’t want it just to be voluntary, we want legislation so that people can be held accountable so we can improve our standing in the international sphere as a country that is above that minimum threshold of 50 per cent in terms of CPI (Corruption Perception Index) score,” he added.

Nothing to celebrate

Integrity Commission Executive Director Greg Christie said on Thursday that while Jamaica inched up by one from a score of 43 to 44 in Transparency International’s (TI) 2020 Corruption Perception Index, the latest showing was nothing to celebrate.

The commission said that the TI’s assessment of Jamaica’s corruption problem suggested that “corruption in the country is endemic, is systemic, is pervasive and is, essentially, a deep-rooted problem”.

In a Gleaner interview, Ogilvie said that, at present, there was no individual, enterprise or entity in Jamaica that was certified under the ISO 37001 anti-bribery standards.

He said that when the issue of corruption comes up for discussion there was an automatic focus on government entities. However, the JCC director drew on the popular Jamaican saying that “one hand can’t clap”.

The JCC director said it was unlikely that two government entities would be engaged in corrupt practices. He said that there was usually non-government-to-government collaboration with someone seeking to gain an unfair competitive advantage.

In relation to the ISO 37001 standard, he explained that preliminary talks with the bureau has led the private-sector bodies to explore the opportunities of a pathway, where members of the respective groups could adapt the principles under the standards as a step towards becoming ISO certified.

“The ISO as a body makes provision in understanding that there may be local jurisdictional context that some of the things don’t fit into neatly, and so there is an allowance for the standard to be adapted in consultation with them and then that adaptation is made specific for the country, in this case Jamaica,” the JCC director said.

While the business support organisations have as a feature of their membership codes of ethics that members subscribe to, Ogilvie said it was pivotal for members of the private-sector bodies to embrace the internationally recognised set of principles and processes to reduce, if not eliminate the possibility of bribery which is one of the main components of corruption.

National anti-corruption strategy

In a related matter, Christie disclosed in a statement that the anti-corruption watchdog was actively preparing to undertake the coordination and implementation of Jamaica’s first national anti-corruption strategy.

“This initiative is intended to align efforts within the public and private spheres towards the singular objective of developing a long-term actionable set of recommendations and practices to reduce and contain the prevalence of corruption within Jamaica,” he said.

The Integrity Commission’s chief spokesman also revealed that the anti-corruption body’s collaboration with major law enforcement agencies was already “bearing considerable fruit”.

He said the commission’s executive team has completed its formal engagement with these major law enforcement agencies in an effort to build effective strategic relationships in the fight against corruption.

Steps are far advanced between the commission and these agencies in the signing of memoranda of understanding in the areas of information sharing and operations cooperation.

The entities in question are the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Jamaica Customs, Tax Administration Jamaica, the Financial Investigations Division, the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, the Revenue Protection Division, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The commission has also sought to have the Office of the Political Ombudsman accorded qualified status to enable it to formally collaborate and share information with the commission.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com