Fri | Mar 24, 2023

Call to fast-track law on unexplained wealth

Jamaica’s corruption score stagnant though ranking marginally improves

Published:Wednesday | February 1, 2023 | 1:09 AM
Professor Emeritus Trevor Munroe, executive director of National Integrity Action.
Professor Emeritus Trevor Munroe, executive director of National Integrity Action.

Nearly three years after Prime Minister Andrew Holness signed a memorandum of understanding with the Opposition, private sector, and civil society to promulgate legislation for the confiscation of unexplained wealth, the proposed statute is yet to be laid in Gordon House.

Director of the National Integrity Action (NIA), Professor Emeritus Trevor Munroe, has flagged that inordinate delay and inaction on other big-ticket governance issues as possible causes for Jamaica’s score remaining stagnant on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

Despite improving one place in the 2022 CPI country rankings, Jamaica remains the fourth most corrupt state in the Caribbean.

In the 2022 CPI released on Tuesday, Jamaica scored 44 on the CPI, with a ranking of 69 out of 180 countries. Last year, the country also scored 44 and was ranked 70 out of 180 countries.

At a virtual press briefing to launch the 2022 CPI, Munroe also signalled that strong resistance from lawmakers to removing the so-called gag clause in the Integrity Commission Act may have contributed to Jamaica’s CPI score stalling.

He said the gag clause in the Integrity Commission Act has to be removed.

The NIA director said that regulations were passed in December 2021 to ensure that persons appointed to public boards are selected on the bases of merit, experience, and competence. However, this did not materialise in 2022.

Munroe also commented on public bodies that continue to breach the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act by not filing their audited financial statements with the relevant ministers.

The anti-corruption campaigner, however, said that Jamaicans have been playing a more active role as whistle-blowers in the fight against graft and other public-sector improprieties that deprive government coffers of billions of dollars.

In 2022, reports to the Integrity Commission increased to 183 when compared with the 91 made the previous year.

The Auditor General’s Department received 62 reports from whistle-blowers last year, up from 34 in 2021.

In 2021, Jamaicans made 685 reports to Crime Stop, while in 2022 the total increased to 1,148.

Munroe said the backlash over the multibillion-dollar fraud at investment firm Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) was proof that “public outrage does matter, and bring results”.

“Do you think that the FBI would have been called in? Do you think that the Bank of Jamaica would have been urged to take over the securities sector had not our people shown outrage in music, in entertainment, in songs, in social-media posts, and on the streets, and the result is drastic action being taken?” asked Munroe.

Turning to Holness’ in-limbo statutory declaration, Munroe said that the prime minister owes to himself and the people of Jamaica an explanation of the non-publication of his assets, income, and liabilities by the Integrity Commission.