Peter Espeut | Corruption is not a crime
It must be frustrating being a member of Jamaica’s Integrity Commission. On the one hand the commission must detect and identify corruption among politicians and senior members of the public sector; that is the easy part. The hard part is to get to the point where “viable criminal charges can be laid”.
The Integrity Commission has two arms: the investigation arm, and the prosecution arm. The job of the Director of Corruption Investigation (DCI) is to detect and identify corruption among politicians and senior members of the public sector; and then when in the opinion of the DCI corruption is found, the matter is referred to the Director of Corruption Prosecution (DCP) for charges to be laid, and for the prosecution of the alleged offender in a court of law.
On several occasions the Director of Corruption Investigation has allegedly found corruption, but after the matter is referred to the Director of Corruption Prosecution, the verdict is that no “viable criminal charges can be laid”.
I recall that the same malady affected the former contractor general of Jamaica: constantly he would detect corruption in the awarding of government contracts, but when he referred the alleged offenders to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the upshot would be that the DPP would rule that no “viable criminal charges can be laid”.
Note that neither the DPP nor the DCP ruled that there was no corruption in the action of the politicians. The rulings were that no “viable criminal charges can be laid” relating to the alleged corruption detected by the OCG and the DCI.
NOT CRIMINAL OFFENCES
And the reason for this is that in Jamaica, too many types of corruption are not criminal offences.
The OCG and the DCI could find all the corruption in the world – all the nepotism and cronyism and undeclared conflicts of interest that elsewhere in the civilised world would lock away the politicians for a long, long time – yet in Jamaica no charges can ever be laid: because under Jamaican law – carefully crafted by those same politicians – nepotism and cronyism and undeclared conflicts of interest and breaches of procurement guidelines are not criminal offences.
And so as the Integrity Commission does its work, the Director of Corruption Investigation can find corruption galore, but yet the Director of Corruption Prosecution has to consistently rule that no “viable criminal charges can be laid”.
It must be frustrating being a member of Jamaica’s Integrity Commission. They have been given a straw basket to carry water. The law that they are given to administer does not allow the Director of Corruption Prosecution to charge anyone with nepotism, cronyism, undeclared conflicts of interest, or breaches of procurement guidelines, because the politicians (who would commit these corrupt acts) have made sure those acts are not illegal.
And so every time the the Director of Corruption Prosecution rules that no “viable criminal charges can be laid”, the accused person declares that their name has been cleared. Of course, such a ruling does not clear anyone of corruption; it only states that no law has been broken.
Jamaica’s anti-corruption laws as conceived and enacted jointly by the House of Green and the House of Orange are grossly deficient.
The register of contracts entered into by the government – once public knowledge – is now confidential information. Political donations are secret even from the Integrity Commission. How are they expected to detect and prosecute the old-fashioned quid pro quo, aka bribery and graft?
Even though nepotism and cronyism are not illegal in Jamaica, at least the regular reports of the contractor general advised us who was giving what to their relatives and friends. Now the gag clause protects the bad name of this kind of offender.
At least the report of the Director of Corruption Investigation tells us who is doing what, even if shortly afterwards the report of the Director of Corruption Prosecution advises that no “viable criminal charges can be laid”.
You can understand why politicians on both sides rankle at this.
I am amazed that more well-thinking Jamaicans do not rally to support the Integrity Commission in its mission of pointing out how so many politicians behave corruptly, but then get away because so many corrupt acts are not illegal in Jamaica. Generally, we have a politician-friendly media who do little more than superficial analysis, and entities like civil society organisations (including the church) appear to be compromised.
Neither political party campaigns on an anti-corruption platform. You never hear: “Vote for us, and if we get into power we will strengthen the Integrity Commission, remove the gag clause, make political donations and government contracts public, and criminalise nepotism, cronyism, undeclared conflicts of interest, and breaches of the procurement guidelines.” Under such laws, few would wish to be politicians.
Sadly, with musical chairs between these two parties, corruption will remain part of the Jamaican body politic for a long time to come.
HIGHWAYS STILL NOT COMPLETE
As predicted, neither the Harbour View to Portland carriageway nor the Rio Minho to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 was completed by the end of August, as promised by the Government. The August deadline already represented cost and time overruns. How much longer, Lord? And how much more will be overspent?
Clearly, there is poor project management at work. Maybe they are looking for an increase! And not a word from the Government about the missed deadlines! After loud promises about August! And the inconveniences continue.
Peter Espeut is a sociologist and development scientist. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org