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Combatting Corruption, Building Integrity, Strengthening Governance

PSOJ Chairman’s Club Forum – Pegasus Hotel, May 31, 2011
Professor Trevor Munroe

Thank You very much for the opportunity to address the Chairman’s Club Forum. Thanks particularly to sponsors LIME and NCB. I am to address the topic – “Combatting Corruption, Building Integrity, and Strengthening Governance.” Allow me to begin by drawing your attention to two thirty second ads recently produced and now being run by the NIAF on TVJ and CVM.

These two ads depict two aspects of Jamaica’s unacceptable corruption reality and summon you, me and all decent Jamaica to raise the level of our resistance to corruption. And that resistance is real, more real than the scenes perhaps depict. There are youth males in the inner city, there are politicians, there are business people, there are police, there are public officials who do not seek nor take bribes, who stand up to those who do, who seek to build integrity. But those who resist and those who stand up need support, need reinforcement to be more effective if, ultimately, frustration is not to get the better of them and they ask themselves ‘ what’s the point?’ I know many such_one is Greg Christie_I ask the PSOJ and all well-thinking Jamaicans to call on him to make himself available for renewal of his contract when it expires next year!

This was the purpose of the NIAF established in January 2009, with the support of USAID and endorsement of both Government and Opposition – to help take heads of public sector anti – corruption agencies out of separate compartments – relatively isolated from one another – relatively frustrated and to bring them into contact, into collaboration to be less frustrated and be more effective in the combat of corruption.

Some small but noteworthy gains:

  • CPI 2010_Jamaica 1 of only 9 countries globally to improve rating and rank;
  • LAPOP 2010_decline in petty bribery from well above to well below global average;
  • Inter agency sharing of databases
  • Protocols of collaboration
  • JCF/ACB_between Jan and April this year, 20 officers arrested,15 charged.

But the scenes depicted in those ads remain real. Corruption though challenged as never before, on the defensive but remains alive and well – at least in our people’s perception and in the assessment of critical Anti- Corruption agencies – OCG. Hence the need to maintain/strengthen the network of public sector anti-corruption champions.

But as important as this is there is a need now to motivate, to hold to account and to focus other than on the Greg Christies, the Danville Walkers, the Owen Ellingtons, the Paula LLewelyns, the Zalia Mc Callas on the building of integrity and the combat of corruption. There is an urgent need for you, the leaders of the major private sector entities, for civil society, the ‘man in the street’ alongside our international partners to more actively engage this combat – that is why the NIAL was established (with your own Joe Matalon as one of our Directors) and that is one reason we are here this morning to seek your support.

Why the urgency?

  • There is now open a window of opportunity to make and to sustain gains in areas critical to advancing national development
  • To reducing levels of poverty and
  • To strengthen our system of governance

I mention four – A window of opportunity:

  • To sustain sharp declines in murder rate and in the incidence of major crime_42% down (2011 compared to 2010, Jan to May 22)
  • For government to stop spending what we don’t have, to reduce the level of borrowing, to tax our people less and facilitate investment, employment creation and growth led by the private sector but involving an active state as well
  • To reconstruct and transform inner – city hot spots and zones of exclusion
  • To enhance transparency and accountability and thereby strengthen critical dimensions of governance

These windows of opportunity were not opened by accident but by a coming together of four man-made circumstances:

  • Public servants of integrity asserting professionalism eg. Christie, Walker, Ellington, Maj Gen Saunders, Maj Gen Anderson, ACP Felice
  • An awakening of civil society – more active media, Churches/denominations over coming differences, human rights, environmental, grass-roots groups talking out
  • A more interventionist private sector – importantly embracing in organization small people like taxi operators, craft vendors, etc and with a national vision superceding partisan support
  • More assertive international partners – IMF- JDX, US Department of Justice – Coke extradition

But make no mistake -exceptional effort by the PSOJ and by all of us who want to build integrity needs to be made to keep the window of opportunity open and to make and sustain the necessary changes. Particularly in an election season,_ this combination of circumstances can weaken and the window close with disastrous consequences for Jamaica going backways. In fact ‘push back’ against gains made is taking place and can be expected to intensify in the coming weeks and months – sometimes from the best of motives; but often from a resolve to defend a status quo which facilitates the corrupt.

I mention the following:

  • Two of the Special Anti-Crime Bills are about to expire and shall require Parliamentary vote to renew (Bail Act- 60 days remand for certain crimes and the Amendment to the JCF Act – detention for 72 hours for certain crimes.) Another the Organized Crime, Anti-Gang Bill is about to be put before the Parliament. These are essential tools for the security forces to sustain and to consolidate the gains made against the gang leaders and their corrupt relations. Yet renewal of these Anti-Crime Bills and the passage of anti gang legislation shall face resistance; the PSOJ must support this legislation.
  • Push Back against public officials in the front line of combat against corruption is growing and is very likely to intensify. In this regard, expect more fire on the Contractor General and the Chairman of the ECJ. (There are now motions in Parliament against Professor Miller and critical of the ECJ)
  • Push Back against spending limits, push in favour of public sector spending at a rate inconsistent with current IMF agreement and in favour of award of public contracts on a corrupt, partisan or irregular basis (JDIP and LNG). Leaders of business and the PSOJ as a whole must reist the temptation of seeking and accepting lucrative government contracts which are awarded on an irregular basis!
  • Resistance to meaningful campaign finance disclosure legislation and to proposed sanctions against behaviour to maintain garrison zones of exclusion. The PSOJ and all well-thinking Jamaicans must insist that we do not go into another election without knowing who is giving big money to which party and without serious penalties ( criminal and civil) against any person who uses intimidation and violence to maintain garrisons! Consultation and Legislation to deal with serious deficits in governance must not be dragged out and must be put into effect well before the next election!

The voice of all elements of the private sector, of civil society, of public officials of integrity, of the man in the street, of the media, of our international partners must be heard and the politicians, law enforcement and the justice system as a whole must act decisively on these matters essential to the combat of corruption, the building of integrity and the strengthening of governace!

This is why NIAL has been established:

  • To complement the work of the NIAF and to help hold NIAF officials to account
  • To reach out to the public and mobilize public awareness in ways that a public sector network cannot
  • To encourage and coordinate advocacy from the private sector, civil society and the media to enforce existing law against ‘untouchables’ and To enact new and necessary legislation to strengthen governance
  • To link Jamaica’s combat of corruption with the global integrity movement by transforming NIAL into the Jamaican Chapter of Transparency International

All of this is going to require extraordinary engagement with all sectors of the Jamaican society but in particular we call on you, the private sector, to provide special support.

This support has begun with modest contributions to Phase 1 of our media advertising campaign from the RJR Group, The Gleaner, Grace Kennedy and Jamaica Broilers. To complete Phase 1 is going to require JMD 1.5 million more before the end of June.

More significantly, the Communication, Advocacy and Outreach activities of the NIAL for each year of for the next three years is going to require a budget of approximately US 2 million. Our international partners are pledging half of this amount. We and our Jamaican partners, and in particular our friends in the private sector, are being encouraged to commit the remaining USD 1 million per year.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the stakes could not be higher. While the beneficiaries of corruption_ in the public and private sectors_ enjoy the fruits of ill-gotten gains, amongst our people, the combination of economic distress, personal vulnerability to violent criminals, distrust of public institutions, disgust at corruption in high places and increasing social disorder is seriously undermining confidence in public institutions, even support for democracy. Indeed available evidence points to a growing tendency towards authoritarian solutions. This turning away from democracy has got to be arrested and can be arrested. But that is going to require a new level of effort from you, from the newly-established NIAL, from all of us to combat corruption, build integrity and strengthen governance.reduced . I am confident that you and the leadership of the PSOJ can rise to this occasion.