Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Prosecute corrupt politicians

Published:Friday | May 29, 2015 | 5:00 AM

HEAD OF the National Integrity Action (NIA) Professor Trevor Munroe has suggested that Jamaica's poor ranking on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) is not likely to improve unless the country successfully prosecutes corrupt activities at the highest levels in the public sector.

In a presentation Wednesday to a joint select committee of Parliament examining the National Integrity Act 2015, Munroe said the robust and intense probe of corrupt activities by United States authorities of some members of the FIFA would have a significant impact on that country's ratings on the CPI, published annually by Transparency International.

"We did not arrange for the arrest and prosecution of the FIFA officials involved in alleged corrupt practices to coincide with our presence here today. But I can assure you that that is a reflection of robust investigation over many years and it is going to have a big impact on the US ratings," Munroe said.

He cited the prosecution and conviction of former St Vincent Registrar of the High Court, Tamara Gibson-Marks, for abuse of authority in 2014 and what he described as the very transparent approach to the procurement rules in that country that contributed to the significant jump on the CPI.

St Vincent and the Grenadines, Egypt and the Ivory Coast were the only three countries that made a dramatic five point improvement on the CPI scale. The Caribbean state moved from 62 to 67.

Jamaica slipped in the 2014 CPI rankings, falling two places from 83 out of 177 countries in 2013 to 85 out of 175 countries in 2014.

He said since Barack Obama became President of the United States in 2008, six members of Congress have gone to prison for corruption-related activities or in the United Kingdom three members of the House of Commons and two from the House of Lords have gone to prison since 2012.

Back home, he said, many have argued that since the 53 years that Jamaica received Independence, only one minister had been investigated, prosecuted, and found guilty.

"It is hard for people to believe that this is as a result of a higher level of integrity among our political representatives as compared with other countries," Munroe argued.

"I think the solution to this is action against corrupt persons which is evidence-based and prosecuted successfully, as well as a legislative framework which is robust," he added.

flagrant breaches

Munroe also pointed to flagrant breaches of the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act (PBMA) by the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) without any sanctions being applied to the responsible officers.

He noted that the auditor general had issued a report stating that the NSWMA did not submit audited financial statements for 10 years, in breach of the PBMA Act and the NSWMA Act.

The NIA head said the PBMA made provision for the attorney general to haul responsible officers before the courts in relation to violation of their fiduciary financial responsibility.

However, National Security Minister Peter Bunting, while supporting Munroe's call for the prosecution and conviction of corrupt politicians, noted that steps had been taken in a number of agencies, where

corruption flourished in the past, to crack down on illicit activities.

"Your question of sending the message to the public of having the successful prosecution seems to be hinged principally on getting some politicians and, while I would like as much as you for a corrupt politician to be prosecuted, that's not the only measure of success," he said.

He added that the Government had introduced measures to plug many intractable areas of corruption which previously plagued institutions such as the Firearm Licensing Authority and the motor vehicle licensing regime.

Further, he said, a number of professionals, including police personnel, tax officials, medical personnel and attorneys-at-law, have been arrested and charged in connection with corruption.