Tue | Sep 28, 2021

IMF stays silent on NIDS, wants Integrity Commission empowered

Published:Friday | April 26, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Dr Uma Ramakrishnan, IMF Mission Chief to Jamaica

IMF officials have opted not to weigh in on the implications of the court ruling on Jamaica’s National Identification System, NIDS, even though it forms part of the policies for implementation under the social safety net reforms being undertaken by the Government.

The International Monetary Fund, IMF, had required the Jamaican Government to complete a two-stage procurement process for acquiring a national identification system for residents and citizens by August 2018, a date which was subsequently revised.

The implementation target was delayed beyond the revised date of January 2019 to March 2019, according to the fifth review under Jamaica’s standby agreement with the IMF released this week.

On April 12, the Full Court, comprising Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, Justice David Batts and Justice Lisa Palmer Hamilton, unanimously ruled that the National Identification and Registration Act, the legislation which would give effect to the National Identification System, was unconstitutional.

Asked about the position of the IMF on the implementation of NIDS, given the court’s ruling, Mission Chief to Jamaica Uma Ramakrishnan said: “That’s an internal matter and that outcome has happened since our last consultation with the Government.”

As such, “I cannot speak to that issue at this moment because I don’t have full details, and it would not be fair for me to make any comment in that regard because I have not had a chance to discuss it with the authorities,” she said.

“So I will have to refrain from any concrete answer in that regard,” said Ramakrishnan during a video conference broadcast from Washington, DC, to the IMF Jamaica Representative offices in Kingston on Wednesday.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has not yet responded to Financial Gleaner queries about what will now happen to the loan it approved for the Government of Jamaica to undertake the design and implementation of NIDS.

In a brief email on April 17, the IDB said its country representative “will respond to you shortly”, but no such response has since been forthcoming.

In other matters raised at the press conference, Ramakrishnan said in relation to the volatility in the foreign exchange market in recent weeks that it’s now time for Jamaica’s central bank and the private sector to come together to discuss the development of a hedging or forward market.

In the fifth report, the IMF also suggested that public sector governance shortcomings should be immediately addressed, in part by empowering the Integrity Commission.

It said the Government is taking steps to improve governance and tackle corruption, including establishing the Integrity Commission which has investigative and prosecutorial powers.

To address corruption risks among parliamentarians and public officials, the 2017 Integrity Commission Bill paved the way for a single anti-corruption unit for investigating and prosecuting corruption in Jamaica.

The commission is empowered to investigate alleged or suspected acts of corruption; preventing, identifying and prosecuting corruption; and monitoring the award and discharge of government contracts and prescribed licences. However, its functionality is yet to be tested because of, among other things, it is just being staffed, the IMF said.

Asked whether empowerment implies that the Government should revisit the legislation, given concerns about the lack of transparency under the existing regime, Ramakrishnan said the commission was relatively new and still evolving.

“This is not to say that it is not working,” she said. “Staffing and funding have to be provided so that it can do its job, and that is what we mean by empowering the Integrity Commission so that it can do what it is supposed to do.”