National Integrity Action Forum (NIAF) Breakfast
Under the Distinguished Patronage of His Excellency Governor General – Monday March 7, 2011
Professor Trevor Munroe
Allow me first of all to express very special thanks to our Governor General, His Excellency, Sir Patrick for his ready agreement to host this breakfast under his distinguished patronage.
Also let me extend sincere appreciation to participants and friends of the NIAF, who accepted our invitation to be here at very short notice. Most of all, Sir Kenneth Hall, Sir Patrick’s predecessor who gave exceptional encouragement to the NIAF on its establishment two years ago and who was a driving force behind the setting up of the Centre for Leadership and Governance four years ago at the University of the West Indies, Mona. And of course, our two authors – Kent Pantry and Carol Bernard Madden_ as well as to Avagay Simpson, and Glynis Salmon who worked hard to produce the finished product which we have before us this morning.
Your Excellency, Colleagues this occasion comes at a critical and decisive moment. Not so much because because it’s our 2nd Anniversary and in our two years, the NIAF and its participants have achieved some success – important as that is. Not so much because of the two publications which we are launching this morning – important as those are to enhance training in the combat of corruption. But the fundamental importance of our gathering here this morning lies in the increasingly obvious fact that the situation in Jamaica requires more urgent and decisive action to confront corruption; the importance of this morning lies in what the Jamaican people and what our International partners are justifiably demanding of the leaders and the institutions engaged in the combat of corruption. As we speak, the situation, our people and our partners are demanding a new quality of contestation with the corrupt, particularly in high places, to deter corruption where possible, but where not, to identify, investigate, prosecute and convict the corrupt, particularly big fish who continue to seem untouchable.
To grasp the urgency in carrying forward our work, it is critical to remind ourselves of the insights of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption which Jamaica has ratified: corruption “undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human society to flourish…Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a Government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice and discouraging foreign aid and investment. Corruption is a key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.” (Source: UNCAC).
Lest we become complacent, it is even more critical to focus on the new intensity of our peoples’ demands to deal more effectively with corruption. In a National Poll in September 2010, a majority of Jamaicans, for the very first time, felt that the most negative thing about Jamaica was “corruption”. Ahead of violence and crime, ahead of breakdown of law and order.
Not only in scientific polls but everyday in our talk shows and newspapers, there is now a deluge of demands for action, for effective investigation and for exemplary punishment of the corrupt. Take one single indicator. In February 2011, last month, in our three newspapers, two daily and one weekly, there were 94 editorials, letters and columns related to corruption_ not counting on-line comments. One year ago in February 2010, there were 27, well over a 3 fold increase. Take letters alone, 11 in February 2010, 38 in February 2011.
The editorials are strident – on Saturday gone, March 5, 2011, the Gleaner “Transports Authority Reeks of Corruption”. Two weeks ago, the Observer February 22, 2011 “Do we want Corruption Prevention Commission”.
Of course much of the public demand is appropriately fuelled by you here present by your annual reports to the Parliament, and through Parliament to the media and to the public. by so many of you leaders of anti-corruption agencies around this table.
It was the annual report of the Auditor General, Pamela Monroe-Ellis which revealed that there are 1,761 applicants under age 17 and 65 over 100 years old who were issued drivers license for the first time for the financial year ended March 2010.
The Director General of the Tax Audit and Administration, Viralee Lattibeaudiere, pointed out that these instances only skimmed the surface of fraud in the Transport Authority.
The Annual Report of the Corruption Prevention Commission informed the Parliament and the public of the extent to which recommendations to deal with breaches were being ignored by the Parliament.
The Annual Reports of the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) are replete with recommendations which have produced little or no action from the authorities – for example, the 2009 report points out that between March 2008 and December 31, 2009, “the OCG has made over 30 formal criminal offence referrals to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution. However, as far as the OCG is aware, none of these referrals, as at December 31, 2009 has given rise whether directly or indirectly to a criminal charge, arrest or prosecution”. (OCG, 23rd Annual Report, pg 13).
The increased and intensified demand for action from you and from our people is clear and unambiguous. Clearly new and powerful initiatives are required if the public and many of the leaders of anti-corruption agencies are not to conclude that you are wasting your time making recommendations year after year and nothing is done. New initiatives are urgently required to develop and to strengthen the political and social will to deter, detect and punish corruption currently eating away at the vitals our development . Reinforcing the demands of our people is the urging from our international partners and friends to act more decisively to deal with the clear and present danger of endemics corruption.
It was in September 2009, our friends from the leading international anti-corruption non-governmental organization, Transparency International, visiting Jamaica on the NIAF invitation, met with us and from the vantage point of their experience in 90 odd chapters around the world, characterised many of you as “Jamaica’s highly talented and courageous reformers” but nevertheless recommended urgent action to stave off the “clear and present danger” of key institutions of governance being captured by corrupt and criminal elements.
A year and a half later, just three days ago, March 4, 2011, the Annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report of the US State Department, while noting “strong cooperation” between the GOJ and the USG, pointed out “There has not been legislative action to create a National Anti-Corruption Agency which is required by the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption to which Jamaica is a signatory…and that [our] judicial system is poorly equipped to handle complex prosecutions in a timely manner”.
There can be absolutely no question – the situation, you around this table, our people in the highways and the byways, our friends near and far are demanding new quality action, more effective results in combating corruption and in prosecuting the corrupt. It is not that nothing has been done or nothing achieved – far from it.
- Public awareness of corruption and the links between inefficient administration and petty corruption, between politics and organized crime, between award of public contracts and corruption in high places – this awareness has grown, not least of all because of the work of the NIAF. And with it, public esteem for those amongst you leading the struggle against corruption
- Some corrupt officials, notably in the Jamaica Constabulary Force are being brought to book
- The authorities, particularly the Office of the Prime Minister, have been persuaded to commit to far-reaching reforms, to plug loopholes in the governance arrangements and to strengthen transparency and accountability in Jamaica’s anti-corruption legislation. For example, pledges to pass legislation requiring campaign finance disclosure by political parties and to criminalise breaches of the Political Code of Conduct as well as to enact serious penalties against irregular sub-contracting have been made, are being worked on, monitored by the Partnership for Transformation and now need to be accelerated
- Internationally, the global community has acknowledged Jamaica’s efforts. In 2011, the authoritative Corruption Perception Index shows Jamaica, after years of decline, as one of only 10 of 178 countries making a modest but significant improvement in both its score and ranking in terms of coming to grips with corruption
In all this, the NIAF has played an important role and our friends in the USAID and the UKDFID made significant contributions by their support for the NIAF. Our non-partisan character has been essential and is reflected in continuing engagement of both the government and the Opposition.
However the situation – national, regional and international – most of all the demand of the Jamaican people leaves no room for self congratulation or complacency. On the contrary, it requires a consolidation of gains made and new, bold and courageous action to achieve more effective results.
In this regard, the way forward demands that the NIAF facilitate:
- More meaningful cooperation and protocols of collaboration amongst our anti-corruption institutions
- A sustaining of forthright, frank and fearless reports to Parliament, to other authorities, to the media and to the public insisting on the implementation of your recommendations – particularly in amending existing law and in passing new legislation to deal with the corrupt
- An anti-corruption media campaign to focus public attention on the links, identified in NIAF meetings, among other places, between the governance system, corruption and crime. The objective of this campaign_ to begin within a fortnight and last for 6 weeks in the first instance_ is to focus public attention on breaking these links, to thereby reinforce the urgency of government fulfilling the governance reform agenda and to motivate the public to make fuller use of 1800 CORRUPT to report wrong-doing
But in all of this, experience is now demonstrating conclusively that in addition to the NIAF, two innovations are absolutely essential if we are to move more successfully to remove the corruption roadblock to Jamaica’s development and to respond to public demand to deal more effectively deal with this scourge which is consigning too many Jamaicans to poverty and hopelessness.
One is a single Anti-Corruption Agency, properly staffed, resourced and empowered to conduct criminal investigations and prosecutions _as initially advocated by the OCG_ with subsequent support from personages within both the Governing and Opposition parties and endorsement from elements in the media. Obviously it is critical that such a body operate within the framework of appropriate constitutional and judicial safeguards against abuse of power. I have argued the case for this in articles publishes both in the Sunday Gleaner and the Sunday Observer of January 16, 2011 and therefore shall say no more on this occasion, except to emphasise that the effective single anti-corruption agency has to be a priority and to urge your support for this step forward.
But the situation also requires more_ it is the establishment of a new, not-for-profit organization with one single purpose – to combat corruption in Jamaica on a non-partisan basis, ultimately to take its place in the global movement against corruption as the Jamaica Chapter of Transparency International. I am happy to announce that by the end of this week, all the legal formalities to register this body_ National Integrity Action Ltd shall have been completed.
The founding directors are here present – Professor of Political Sociology at the University of the West Indies, Prof. Anthony Harriot, Mr. Joseph M. Matalon, President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Columnist and Lecturer at the University of Technology, Mr. Martin Henry, Mr. Danny Roberts, Head of the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Institute and myself, with Mr. Lenny Burke, Attorney-at-Law, as Company Secretary.
Our draft 3-5 years Action Plan and Budget is now being finalized for discussion. Suffice it to say this morning _ the action plan is going to require substantially increased support from our international partners to achieve the required new level of effectiveness in Jamaica’s anti-corruption activity. Without this support, we shall not be able to attain our objectives to the extent necessary. I am happy to say that strong assurances of significantly enhanced funding support for the NIAL in association with the NIAF have come from USAID and from the UKDFID and I want to especially thank their representatives here this morning – Karen Hilliard and Geraldine O’Callaghan, for their commitment of support.
Allow me to preview some of the main objectives of the proposed activity under the NIAL plan, scheduled to start in July:
- To strengthen the effectiveness of the NIAF anti-corruption agencies here represented by securing resources to help build capacity, not least of all by supporting organization-specific training as well as professional upgrading, as you see fit and as many of you have already identified in your organization plans. For example, the OCJ, the JTI and the ODPP annually conduct a number of seminars and workshops to enhance the competencies of Resident Magistrates and Clerks of the Courts respectively. The NIAL shall seek to secure funding to reduce the resource constraints in building capacity in these and other key anti-corruptions agencies. In this regard partnerships with the Management Institute for National Development (MIND), the UWI and other tertiary level institutions as well as publications/manuals such as these being launched today shall obviously play a critical role
- To develop and launch on a sustained basis multi-media, multi-agency campaigns to strengthen transparency and accountability in governance and in support of more effective anti-corruption outcomes
- To strengthen the support the linkages between Jamaican Civil Society and NIAF public sector reformers
- To develop, publicise and consistently advocate evidence-based recommendations to combat corruption and to improve integrity in governance – in particular in advocacy of an effective single anti-corruption agency
- To build an anti-corruption coalition and movement by bringing together persons of influence, working with civil society bodies, interest groups and community organizations in building an integrated and inclusive membership base
- To build a strong, permanent multi-skilled secretariat and administrative hub to sustain the range, diversity and effectiveness of NIAL activity in support of and independently of the NIAF
- To conduct outreach activity to different sectors and communities, to generate increased and more educated demand among the general public for stronger political will to lead and to target more effectively both grand and petty corruption
- To evolve the NIAL into a Transparency International Jamaica Chapter in order to support government, NIAF and Civil Society organization anti-corruption efforts in Jamaica by linking them more immediately and effectively to the global anti-corruption movement. The purpose_ to benefit from and contribute to the considerable experience and expertise embodied in Transparency International Movement
Let me conclude by once again acknowledging the extraordinary, often unseen and unrequited efforts each of you in the NIAF and your staff continue to make. Let me also pledge increased effort to make the NIAF more effective as a public sector multi-agency network and with the establishment of the NIAL enhanced advocacy to achieve the transformation – institutional, legislative, operational and administrative –necessary to deter, detect, prosecute and defeat the corrupt