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NIA: Ja must tackle corruption head-on to achieve prosperity

Published:Tuesday | September 24, 2019 | 12:27 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter

Local corruption watchdog National Integrity Action (NIA) says the recent findings in the Global Corruption Barometer underline the serious challenges that Jamaica and the wider Caribbean must confront in combating corruption more effectively.

If this challenge is tackled, the NIA said, Jamaica would witness greater progress and prosperity.

The report was published in Berlin yesterday by Transparency International and shows that in the last 12 months, 49 per cent of Jamaicans believed corruption was on the rise.

The report highlights the views and experiences of the Jamaican people, alongside those of 17 other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as reported in national surveys conducted between January and March 2019.

Seventy-eight per cent of Jamaicans believe corruption is a big problem in government and nearly 50 per cent think that the Government is handling the fight against corruption badly, the report added.

Protect whistleblowers

The NIA said these findings reinforce recommendations made by his organisation and others over the years that law-enforcement agencies and justice sector officials should be given more support to demonstrate greater courage and integrity in taking action in investigating reports from citizens. They should also be better empowered to protect whistleblowers and in jailing those found guilty of corruption.

The NIA also recommends that the Government also needs to set a better example of holding to account those within its own ranks against whom credible allegations of corruption are made.

Within the last year, two government ministers – Dr Andrew Wheatley and Ruel Reid – have been sidelined as their ministries were caught up in a host of alleged mismanagement and corruption allegations, including questionable contracts and payments.

From the Global Corruption Barometer findings, however, the NIA said there were positives in relation to Jamaica’s performance compared to the rest of the region.

The report says 12 per cent Jamaicans report being offered a bribe to buy their vote in the last five years, compared to approximately 25 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Also, more than half of Jamaicans are aware of their right to information, compared to 39 per cent for the rest of the region.

Of much concern to the NIA is that 67 per cent of Jamaican citizens believe that the Government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves, compared to 53 per cent of Jamaicans reported in the Global Corruption Barometer 2013.

NIA said this finding clearly indicates that there needs to be greater public awareness and more effective enforcement of campaign finance legislation designed to reduce the extent to which political parties and candidates are, in fact – or are perceived to be – beholden to a few big donors.

The report also said that 18 per cent of Jamaicans experience sextortion (sex bribes) and 73 per cent argue that ordinary citizens can make a difference in the fight against corruption.