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Jamaica's improvement in CPI 2010 significant

Published:Sunday | October 31, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Professor Trevor Munroe - Rudolph Brown/Photographer

Trevor Munroe, Contributor

THE NATIONAL Integrity Action Forum (NIAF), a multi-agency network constituted primarily of the heads of Jamaica's anti-corruption institutions, is encouraged and reinforced in its resolve to intensify the combat of corruption in Jamaica by the 2010 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released this morning by Transparency International, the global civil society coalition against corruption.

The 2010 CPI shows Jamaica:

Improving its score, after successive years of decline in 2007, 2008 and 2009;

  • Improving its global ranking from 99 out of 180 countries to 87 out of 178 countries, after successive falls in rankings in 2007, 2008 and 2009;
  • Improving its ranking in the Americas from 21 of 28 countries in 2009 to 16 in 2010;
  • Being identified as one of 10 countries in the world which has an improvement in scores.

The annual CPI is a composite index, a poll of polls, drawing on expert and business surveys, tapping local and international opinion - in the case of the CPI 2010 conducted between January 2009 and September 2010. The surveys relate primarily to the public sector, and include questions which focus on "kickback in public procurement, bribery of public officials, embezzlement of public funds, and questions that probe the strength and effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts in the public sector" (TI, FaAQ).

Four observations

The 2010 CPI has not yet been discussed by the participants in the NIAF (as it was released only this morning). Nevertheless, as director, I wish to make four observations:

1. Jamaica's improvement is significant against the backdrop of three successive years of decline and in the context of continued fall in other global rankings: Human Development Index fall from 92 to 100 (from 2007 to 2009 report); Ease of Doing Business fall from 67 to 75 (2009 to 2010); Environmental Performance from 54 (in 2008) to 89 (in 2010).

2. During the period covered by CPI 2010, there was growing public disquiet about levels of corruption, and public demand for action against those perceived to be corrupt. In 2008, a Don Anderson poll showed that Jamaicans, for the first time, regarded corruption as the second most important thing wrong with Jamaica. Last month, another Don Anderson poll showed a majority regarding corruption as the "most negative thing about Jamaica". This sentiment fuelled the widespread and overwhelming public demand for Christopher 'Dudus' Coke's extradition, and for upholding of the rule of law. Nine editorials/columns/letters in three newspapers in January 2010 rose to 216 in May.

3. Public demand was accompanied by the establishment of the NIAF in January 2009, and by NIAF-encouraged assertiveness among the leaders of Jamaica's anti-corruption agencies towards achieving more meaningful results in combating corruption. This assertiveness has unquestionably contributed to Jamaica's improved international rating. Examples of action by the NIAF participants (not exhaustive) are:

1. Arrest, trial and conviction for corruption of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's (JCF) highest ranking police officer in recent history, Superintendent Harry Daley.

2. Launch of special investigations by the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) into allegations of irregularity, impropriety and corruption in the public sector, and achievement of sustained compliance with the law requiring timely filing of quarterly contract awards.

3. Removal of over 160 police officers from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), on the initiative of the Anti-Corruption Branch, between January and August 2010.

4. Action by the Financial Investigation Division, the Revenue Protection Division, and the JCF in relation to freezing and seizing assets of persons with criminal lifestyles under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). (Six civil recovery matters under the POCA and over 30 cash seizure and money-laundering matters now pending).

5. Action to detect, investigate and apprehend high-profile delinquents by the Customs and Tax Administration Departments.

6. Assignment of a special court to hear corruption cases in the corporate area.

4. Significant action by the Government and other public authorities, in response to public demand, and to NIAF advocacy:

  • Extradition of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.
  • Parliamentary/legislative action on measures to provide for greater transparency and accountability as well as more effective law enforcement, including:

• Plea-bargaining

• Whistleblower protection

• Review of the defamation law

• Provision for special anti-corruption prosecutor.

Proposals now before the Parliament for political party registration and funding from the Electoral Commission of Jamaica. Proposals for campaign financing to be put to Parliament by December 2010.

Bill to give constitutional status to the OCG, the ECJ, and the political Ombudsman now being drafted.

The improvement in perception and in the reality of combating corruption in Jamaica, clearly related to public demand, to the NIAF's advocacy, as well as to the assertiveness of the leaders of Jamaica's anti-corruption agencies and to the responsiveness of Government. More improvement requires even more effective action and a new quality of engagement with the public.

Plans for 2010-2011

1. Establishment of a non-governmental counterpart of the NIAF - National Integrity Action Ltd - a not-for-profit company with a board constituted of persons of integrity from the public sector, civil society, and the private sector. This entity, now being established, shall seek to more actively engage the public in the combatting of corruption and will evolve into the Jamaica Chapter of Transparency International.

2. Enhanced advocacy - campaign finance legislation; entrenchment of the OCG.

3. Intensified research - best practices in enhancing integrity and combating corruption globally. Customising recommendations for Jamaica, particularly in respect of the OCG's recommendation for a single anti-corruption agency.

4. Strengthening of capacity among anti-corruption institutions. In this regard, the NIAF shall publish before the end of November, two training manuals - Best Practice in Prosecution of Corruption Cases and Strengthening Jamaica's Conflict of Interest Rules. These shall be used in training and sensitisation programmes, with officials involved in prosecuting and adjudicating anti-corruption cases.

5. Enhanced links with the public through 1-800 and 1-888 toll-free lines by anti-corruption agencies.

6. Closer collaboration among agencies, while respecting individual mandates, engaged in enhancing national integrity and in combating corruption.

One year ago when the 2009 CPI was released, I made the statement:

"Jamaica's decline on the TI CPI 2009 was not surprising but can be reversed."

Today, with the release of CPI 2010, we see the beginning of reversal. We commend Jamaica's anti-corruption champions and suggest that Jamaica's improvement is not surprising in the context of greater public demand and anti-corruption activism. We intend to sustain this activism and to encourage growing public support. We also acknowledge and look forward to continued support from our international partners, in particular the United States Agency for International Development.

Professor Trevor Munroe is director of the National Integrity Action Forum based at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus.