Wed | Sep 20, 2017

A new approach needed to reduce corruption-CaPRI

Published:Friday | June 16, 2017 | 6:12 AM
Paula Llewellyn, director of public prosecutions.
Greg Christie
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Despite many anti-corruption laws and institutions in Jamaica (eight acts and eight state institutions), the perception remains one of pervasive corruption. Examining this paradox, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) has suggested, in a study undertaken in partnership with the National Integrity Action (NIA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a new approach.

Traditionally, Jamaica's approach to restraining corruption has been the use of legislation and enforcement - designing rules of behaviour for public officials and attempting to police fidelity to those rules. The limitations of this approach are apparent from the low number of corruption prosecutions and the ninth ranking of Jamaica out of 11 English-speaking Caribbean countries in the 2016 Corruption Perception Index.

 

Gaps and weaknesses

 

Towards improving what already exists, notwithstanding the large amount of legislative and institutional effort already dedicated to stymieing corruption, well-known gaps and weaknesses do exist and should be addressed. Parenthetically but importantly, in CaPRI's earlier communication on this, our spokespersons were interpreted, when describing a large anti-corruption legislative framework, as claiming that said framework is adequate for the task; it is demonstrably not and in the context of the single anti-corruption entity being instituted, it is an opportune time for these legislative gaps to be addressed, particularly in relation to the new agency having independent investigative and prosecutorial powers.

Limited number of corruption prosecutions remains a problem

In the course of providing evidence for the ineffectiveness of the present legislative approach, CaPRI referenced, in its report, figures obtained from Office of the Contractor General reports which revealed that, between March 2008 and December 2009, none of over 30 cases submitted to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) had been prosecuted. Our spokespersons, however, erred in a subsequent radio interview by claiming that over 40 of these referrals had, in total, not been prosecuted since then, and by referring to these as "corruption cases" when they were actually classified as "criminal offences".

As former Contractor General Greg Christie clarified in a recent article, this figure concerns the period between March 2008 and February 2011. While prosecution remains lacking, we do however need to update this information, as two cases have indeed been prosecuted since.

All the same, the limited number of corruption cases prosecuted by the DPP remains a problem in its own right. The paucity of prosecutions supports the impression that no credible threat of prosecution exists and thus there is no deterrent. The international community has also perceived this to be a serious problem for the country. The Organization of American States (OAS), at its 24th Meeting of the Committee of Experts on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption (MESICIC) in Jamaica, declared "As these government bodies rely exclusively upon the DPP to carry out prosecutions of corruption and corruption-related offences, their effectiveness can only go so far if prosecutions are not being carried out.

The committee observes that the country under review should consider addressing the lack of prosecutions or actions undertaken by the Office of the DPP, whether it is an issue of priorities or resources."

Thus, this issue should not be ignored and ought to be highlighted until positive change is realised.

The DPP defends her office's decision not to prosecute these cases on the basis that they were only "administrative breaches" and not actually cases in which corruption had been alleged. While that is true, the DPP manifestly fails to appreciate that those procedural requirements are mandate by law precisely to close off opportunities to engage in corruption. If Jamaica is indeed to progress in confronting corruption, avoidance of anti-corruption procedures must be treated with the same rigour and prosecuted with the same vigour as evidence of corruption itself.

CaPRI's report, however, was not geared towards improving legislation and enforcement but rather, towards suggesting a quite different approach which would complement the existing anti-corruption framework.

Towards that goal, as consistent with good research methodology, CaPRI did reach out to the DPP during the course of the research. We were therefore directed by Ms Llewellyn, in February of this year, to a representative of her office, and a productive consultation did take place.

Pakistan feedback programme most ideal for adoption

After careful examination of the corruption framework in Jamaica, the Citizen Feedback Monitoring Program (CFMP) used in Pakistan was found to be the most suitable.

The CFMP is a system whereby the government proactively reaches out to citizens after they have accessed services in public agencies to seek feedback on their experience via recorded call and SMS. Citizens can then report on a range of issues from bribery to inefficient service. This programme allows the government to collect highly targeted information so that key problem areas within state agencies can be appropriately and effectively addressed.

Since its implementation in Pakistan, this innovation has led to more than 11,000 actions, including the dismissal of corrupt public officials and system reforms in the public sector. This approach incentivises other officials to become more transparent and efficient in the exercise of their duties.

Another advantage is that it does not rely on citizens to be proactive but, instead, reaches out to citizens, making it easy for them to report their complaints.

Lasting reform comes from empowering citizens to insist on their basic rights and holding those in authority accountable. Through the proposed 'feedback monitoring programme', citizens are encouraged to participate in the fight against corruption.

This approach acknowledges that the problem of corruption affects the entire society and therefore requires the efforts of all to adequately address the issue. We hope that public discussion about the OCG's cases remaining largely unprosecuted does not overshadow the merit of our recommendation.