Tue | Dec 12, 2017

CaPRI | Harnessing the power of the people: Resolving Jamaica's petty corruption problem

Published:Monday | September 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM

On Wednesday, September 13, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) convened 30 stakeholders to discuss a proposed anti-corruption innovation. The high-level breakfast, held at the Spanish Court Hotel's Worthington building, was designed to garner the feedback of key players towards the development of a 'Citizen Feedback Monitoring Programme' (CFMP) pilot for Jamaica. Participants included government officials, heads of public agencies, and researchers specialising in issues of corruption.

This meeting was set to coincide with the official release of CaPRI's recent report, Anti-Corruption Innovations: Strengthening Jamaica's Integrity, the findings of which were presented during a public forum held by CaPRI at the Worthington in May of this year. This report is the first output of a partnership between the UWI-based think tank, the United States Agency for International Development and the National Integrity Action. Led by CaPRI research officer Desiree Phillips, it sought to identify an innovative approach to addressing Jamaica's pervasive corruption problem. To do so, it examined in detail Jamaica's corruption landscape and integrity framework, as well as analysed integrity innovations around the world to see whether any successful approaches could provide the basis for a suitable tool for Jamaica.

 

What is the CFMP?

 

The proposed innovation, the CFMP, is a mechanism which could both reduce opportunities for corrupt activity and increase efficiency in public agencies. This system is used by the government of Punjab, in Pakistan, to collect feedback from citizens who access public services. Since its official launch in 2012, the CFMP has led to over 20,000 corrective actions in Pakistan, including system reforms, disciplinary action and staff training. It has since been adopted and used in other countries, including Romania and Albania.

Employees in public agencies monitored by the CFMP are required to collect contact information from their clients, and transmit this to a centralised calling centre. The centre texts or calls these citizens soon after and gets feedback. The questions, tailored to suit each service monitored, are kept simple. For example, following a visit to the Customs Agency, the client may be contacted and asked an objective question, such as whether a bribe was solicited, and a subjective one, such as to assess his/her level of satisfaction with the service. The feedback is then analysed in real time and shared through an online dashboard with the relevant officials.

 

What are the benefits?

 

As mentioned previously, the CFMP allows the government to collect highly targeted data, further enabling evidence-based decision-making in the improvement of the Jamaican public sector. The feedback collected allows the government to identify specific problem areas and issues in its agencies, which can then be rectified. With the information gathered, relevant action can be taken, be it restructuring the system to reduce opportunities for corruption in one case, or retraining staff to improve service delivery in another.

Additionally, with the CFMP, citizens are not required to possess a smartphone, or search for a facility to launch a report. They are proactively and directly contacted to obtain feedback. This not only allows proactive governance, but also the active participation of citizens, thereby facilitating better decision-making. Thus, this initiative can work towards reducing the trust deficit between the government and citizens.

 

Towards a pilot

 

Feedback from stakeholders enabled the CaPRI team to identify some of the challenges to be addressed in the initial stages of the design of a pilot. From a legal standpoint, impending legislation may place some restriction on the use of client information obtained at government agencies. However, this concern is currently based on conjecture, as such legislation is yet to be tabled in Parliament. Furthermore, the actual content of this legislation is also uncertain.

There also exists a concern that citizens may be somewhat reluctant to surrender their information or provide feedback when contacted - which stresses the need, in the initial stages, of a strong sensitisation effort. Citizens are, however, expected to be further encouraged to participate once the positive impact of their contribution is demonstrated.

As stated by one of the participants in the September 13 stakeholder meeting, "There is no option as to whether this can work. It has to work." Indeed, the CFMP has the potential to transform the Jamaican public sector into one which is resistant to corrupt practices and delivers high-quality services to its clients. It will also allow the extent of petty corruption in public-sector agencies to be tracked. Further consultations with relevant experts will therefore enable CaPRI to address these issues - before the Kingston-based think tank actively seeks funding for the development of said pilot, and builds partnerships with the public sector to optimise its impact.

- Anti Corruption Innovations: Strengthening Jamaica's Integrity is available to download, along with CaPRI's entire research catalogue, at capricaribbean.org/publications.