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OCG calls for body with more teeth

Published:Tuesday | March 23, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

TWO WEEKS after Parliament passed a bill establishing the Office of a Special Prosecutor, Contractor General Greg Christie has urged legislators to turn their focus on creating an office of a corruption prosecutor.

Christie, who yesterday wrote to Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller, House Speaker Delroy Chuck, and Senate President Oswald Harding, has lamented what he said was the seeming lack of progress in prosecuting meaningful efforts to effectively combat corruption in Jamaica.

"The OCG (Office of the Contractor General) believes that a truly independent and adequately resourced national anti-corruption state agency, with independent criminal investigative and prosecutorial powers, and with the mandate to deal with all corruption matters, would provide us all with a better and quicker chance of succeeding in the fight to kill the monster of corruption that has now blanketed and overshadowed Jamaica," Christie wrote in his letter.

Attempts to reach Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne were not successful up to press time yesterday. In the meantime, however, the opposition People's National Party said it was willing to consider the proposal.

"We would be willing to go as far as to look into other jurisdictions to see if they have established such a body and what sort of success it has had," A.J. Nicholson, the party's spokesman on justice, said.

Anti-corruption agency

Christie has suggested that the Constitution be amended to allow for the establishment of a national independent anti-corruption state agency.

The contractor general has also suggested that legislators give the proposed prosecutor the exclusive and independent criminal jurisdiction to prosecute all corruption offences and any criminal offence which arises from a breach of the applicable laws or regulations associated with the award, implementation and termination of government contracts.

Similarly, under this proposed corruption prosecutor, Christie has suggested the establishment of a special corruption court to adjudicate the foregoing offences, or for special magistrates/judges to be assigned to deal with corruption matters.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn said she was not offended by the call from Christie to take away some of her powers.

"It is the right of the contractor general to make any suggestions as he sees fit and from where he sees the justice landscape, given his mandate under the Contractor General's Act," Llewellyn told The Gleaner.

Professor Trevor Munroe, director of the National Integrity Action Forum, has endorsed the proposals made by the contractor general.

"The country is covered in a blanket of corruption and we have to make every effort to lift it," Munroe said.

Too slow

He told The Gleaner that the prosecution and the disposition of corruption-related cases were too slow and that the Resident Magistrate's courts were overburdened.

"Whatever proposals that can increase our dealings with corruption prosecution and ensure more effective outcomes are welcome," Munroe said.

Commentator Richard Crawford, a lecturer in government at the University of West Indies, Mona, says while Christie's suggestion is one to be explored, it appears that there is tension between the offices of the DPP and the OCG.

"His call could suggest a level of tension in the relationship, as well as a level of frustration on the part of the contractor general," Crawford said.

"After his office investigates, there seems to be a lull or a level of follow-up that is not commensurate with the findings from his office," Crawford added.

Meanwhile, Nicholson said he hoped that Christie's suggestion was not fuelled by a strained relationship with Llewellyn.

"If there is a rift between both departments, we hope it is not the reason the suggestion is being put forward," Nicholson said.

He added: "We hope that the reason it is coming forward is to find the best way to combat the corruption the country faces. It can't come down to personalities or difference between persons who hold certain offices."

The Independent Commission of Investigations Act has now paved the way for the establishment of the Office of a Special Prosecutor, which will investigate alleged abuses of Jamaicans by members of the security forces.