Daviot Kelly, Sunday Gleaner Writer
Justice Minister Mark Golding is pointing to International Monetary Fund (IMF) negotiations as one of the main reasons for the Government's failure to establish a single anti-corruption agency.
With Jamaica at No. 83 of the 175 countries ranked in the 2013 Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, the Government has faced fresh criticisms over its failure to take action to deal with this problem.
"It is that it's unlikely Jamaica will make any progress until we convert words into deeds in relation to the combat of corruption," declared the lobby group National Integrity Action (NIA) as it reacted to the country's low ranking.
"In particular, until the Government implements its repeated commitment to legislate campaign finance reforms; establishes a single anti-corruption agency with prosecutorial powers, and significantly strengthens penalties attached to breaches of the procurement system.
"These actions would represent a definitive step towards challenging the impunity of those involved in high-level corruption that is today so rampant," said the NIA.
But responding to questions about Jamaica's less-than-favourable rating, Golding argued that the Government is committed to the single anti-corruption agency.
REVIEW PROCESS STARTED
"That legislation has been prepared. It was brought to the legislation committee in November," said Golding as he pointed out that the review process had begun.
"However, because under the IMF agreement we have a number of legislative deliverables for December ... that had to be dealt with," declared Golding as he defended the administration's failure to start the parliamentary debate on the long promised legislation.
Among the IMF deliverables tackled by the Parliament in recent time were the establishment of omnibus tax incentive laws, amendments to the Securities Act, and the creation of the Superform to ease the establishment of new businesses.
"I am hoping (that) in January, if all goes well, we will be able to table that bill in Parliament," said Golding.
He was speaking at the launch of a 'Unite For Change' campaign by the Ministry of National Security.
The campaign is a multisectoral approach to fighting crime.
With the police expected to play an integral role in the programme, National Security Minister Peter Bunting noted a recent Latin American Public Opinion Project study that showed significant improvement in the perception of the Jamaican police.
"I'm not saying it's where we need it to be, but the trend is in the right direction," said Bunting.
He cited the work of the police Anti-Corruption Branch as a catalyst for the improved perception of Jamaican cops.
The security minister pointed out that more than 500 policemen have been dismissed from the Force since 2010.