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The National Integrity Action Limited Launch Address

The National Integrity Action Launch – December 9, 2011
Professor Trevor Munroe

Mr. Chairman Professor Harriott, Hon Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, Dr Peter Phillips representative of the Leader of the Opposition, High Commissioner Drake, Ambassador Pamela Bridewater and Distinguished Guests, allow me to add my word of welcome to each and every one of you but to single out those who have travelled from far from Berlin_ Alejandro Salas, Regional Director for the Americas of Transparency International, from New York, Arun Kashyap and leaders of our Parish Development Committees, coming furthest from Westmoreland, Rev Caulton, from Portland Linnette Wilks. The National Integrity Action Limited (NIAL) shall work to reach out to engage you and others on the understanding that Kingston is not Jamaica and Jamaica not Kingston.

Allow me also to welcome you in a very special way with one of the advocacy television advertisements of NIAL that on Campaign Finance Reform.

This advertisement, as you may know, in the month of November alone, has been on all television stations, on FLOW Cable Network, on 7 main radio stations, in 8 national and community newspapers. Alongside this Ad has been strong expressions of support for Campaign Finance Reform as a key tool in building integrity and combatting corruption from all segments of the Jamaican society, the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC), and from a wide cross section of the Jamaican people. In fact, a recent Bill Johnson Poll confirmed that 75% of our people want full disclosure by parties and candidates of the source of their contribution and 65% a limit on contributions and therefore a limit on the capacity of any entity to buy a party or a candidate.

I begin with this observation in order to illustrate that advocacy shall be at the heart of the NIAL programme of work and, more importantly, that this advocacy has not been without significant positive results. I want to stress this because our polling confirms that the vast majority of the Jamaican people believe that there is little they can do to impact government and authority. Our people need to learn and NIAL shall help to teach from our peoples’ own experience that this is no longer the case – our collective voice can and does have an impact. Campaign Finance Reform is a classic example, for close to 10 years this has been on the national agenda but only now has it been moving decisively from being an agenda item to an action item.

  • In May 2010 Former Prime Minister Golding placed it on his reform agenda. Not least of all because of public demand for greater transparency in governance
  • Then each month this has been a matter for report in the Partnership for Transformation
  • Then in June, after commendable consultation, the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) produced a report recommending that there be a limit on party/candidate expenditure, that there be a ceiling on contributions, that some categories of donors be no longer permissible, in particular unregulated financial institutions, and entities with contracts with the government unless the latter be publicly disclosed and, very importantly, the ECJ recommended that partial disclosure of donors be implemented

A few days ago, for the first time since Jamaica’s independence both parties have agreed to a system of Campaign Finance Reform recommended by the ECJ. For this step, NIAL commends the JLP, led by Prime Minister Holness and the PNP represented by its spokesman on finance, Dr Peter Phillips. This is a first not only for Jamaica but for the Caribbean community. This would not have happened without the growth of public demand for probity and more effective combat of corruption. The building of the demand for integrity and the practice of probity on a sustainable basis is a fundamental objective of the NIAL.

Of course legislation and attendant regulation for Campaign Finance Reform still remains to be passed. And therefore today at our launch on this International Anti-Corruption Day we call on both our special guests here this morning – you, Prime Minister Holness and you, Dr Peter Philips representing the Opposition to place campaign finance reform in your Election Manifestos and to commit to the passage of legislation giving effect to the ECJ’s June 2011 recommendations within 100 days of a new administration taking office after December 29.

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen we call for this commitment and for more effective combat of corruption not only on NIAL’s behalf but on the behalf of all the Jamaican people. In September 2010, a National Survey found that our people felt that corruption was the thing “most wrong” with Jamaica. Internationally, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index has found that, along with two thirds of the countries in the world, Jamaica is perceived as corrupt. In this context last month, in November, as part of its activity NIAL commissioned Don Anderson’s Market Research Services Limited to find out how our people assessed government’s leadership of the Anti-Corruption drive. 20% said strong, 52% said adequate but not good enough. A main purpose of the NIAL is to get our people, to get the government to do better.

In fact there is some indication that our people are doing better. In 2006, the bi annual Latin American Public Opinion Programme (LAPOP) study found that bribe-paying and taking in Jamaica was above the global average of 25%. In 2010 the same study found that this had fallen below this global average to less than 8%. This is an encouraging indicator that integrity may be increasing ‘on the ground’. Similarly the signs of our people’s demand for greater probity beyond Campaign Finance Reform are promising. In the month just ended, November 2011, in our two national dailies they were 71 editorials, letters to the editor and columns calling for more action against corruption. This does not take into account of course the television discussion programs, the calls to the talk shows and the exchange on social media. One of NIAL’s main purposes is to strengthen and give substance to these calls for integrity and to engage all sections of the society in particularly the youth and our women in follow up actions where necessary and possible. Our tertiary students shall be a particular focus and today we specially welcome the representatives of the UWI students.

This leads me to give thanks and to express sincere appreciation to all those who are making the general demand for probity loud and clear and the specific activity of NIAL possible.

  • To the media for facilitating the Editorials, Letters to the Editor and Columns and more particularly for partnering with NIAL in cost sharing in the advertising activity
  • To FLOW cable channel for strong support in facilitating free of cost the NIAL advertisements on their channel
  • To Private Sector entities who have been the pioneers in coming forward with support
  • To the members of the JCSC – the private sector leaders, the church, the Human Rights, environmentalists and their members who are special partners with NIAL
  • Very importantly, to our international development partners DFID/UK and USAID. Their support, as part of their global obligation, for Jamaica’s and NIAL’s combat of corruption has been strong

We especially welcome United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Pamella Bridgewater, and United Kingdom High Commissioner to Jamaica Howard Drake and acknowledge their presence this morning as an indication of their respective governments support for our peoples’ efforts to build integrity in our country.

Without these partners we would not have gotten to the point of today’s launch nor to what is just the beginning of advancing the objective of raising awareness and of building public engagement. Needless to say these partnerships national and international shall have to grow stronger, particularly with the JCSC and with the local Private Sector on whose financial support we shall have to make more effective and successful calls, particularly in consolidating further advances under the new administration in Jamaica’s 50th year of Independence.

But there are other objectives which guide our programme of action. One is to ensure that outstanding items on legislative reform be accelerated. I mention three:

  • The setting up of the Special Prosecutor’s Office which I regard as only half a loaf since it excludes the Office of the Contractor General and since it falls short of being the single Anti-Corruption agency with powers of investigation and prosecution which Jamaica’s situation demands for into which we shall advocate the transformation of the Special Prosecutor’s Office.
  • Secondly the transformation of procurement regulation to ensure transparency and competition in sub-contracting, and as well, a reduction of the ability of criminal elements, in association with or independently of politicians, to take money illicitly from the public purse.
  • Thirdly I mention measures to ensure that sanctions are applied to breaches of our Code of Political Conduct. In this last regard please note a copy of the Code in the kit you have received and I am happy to announce that NIAL shall be partnering with the Office of the Political Ombudsman in a public education programme to enhance citizen engagement in detecting, deterring and facilitating punishment for breaches of the code, breaches which corrupt the political process, particularly in an election campaign period. This is one example of how we propose to motivate our people to get involved, to become more active in enhancing integrity and in strengthening our democracy. 1-800 hotlines shall be an important tool. In addition to building public awareness, NIAL must help increase civic activism.

Plugging legislative loopholes and increasing civic engagement are both critical to our work.

But as well NIAL’s plans to work to strengthen anti-corruption bodies, to support the enhancement of law enforcement capacity and to reinforce the will to live up to their responsibility amongst our professionals who head Jamaica’s anti-corruption institutions. In this regard it is essential that our people both encourage and hold to account these public servants. Already we are seeing exceptional performance from many of them and game changing recommendations in their annual reports to parliament. NIAL shall join with them in advocacy before the Executive and the Legislature to have justifiable recommendations accepted. Many of these professionals have been working together in the National Integrity Action Forum (NIAF), the public sector network which preceded NIAL and with whom we shall continue to partner in the coming months and years. We welcome those leaders here this morning. But the importance of accountability to our people has led the NIAL to commissioning a national survey on our peoples’ perception on the performance of the agencies. We are committed to conducting this survey on an annual basis to measure the degree of satisfaction with these public institutions, as one important tool of accountability to the people of Jamica.

The first ever such survey was conducted in November 2011 by Don Anderson’s Market Research Services Limited. I now report that amongst 7 anti-corruption agencies in relation to which our people were surveyed between November 17 and 21 2011 the highest degree of satisfaction was expressed with the Office of the Contractor General (43% very satisfied or somewhat satisfied), secondly with the Anti-Corruption Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force where 42 % were satisfied or somewhat satisfied. Other rankings are contained in the tabular report which we are now making available to you this morning. Obviously those doing good must be commended and urged to do better. For example, the anti-corruption branch of the JCF is not only arresting, prosecuting and punishing corrupt officers; they also have an extensive programme of ethics education which is to be appreciated and should be shared with other anti-corruption entities for emulation. Those who are not doing so good must be urged to improve. More than this however NIAL as a part of its programme of activity aims to facilitate further training and upgrading of the skills of the professionals in these agencies, including of prosecutors and sensitization of magistrates in conjunction with the Justice Training Institute. This training enhancement shall require significant support from our international partners; we are confident that this will be forthcoming in our programme of collaboration. In that regard it is very important that our partners understand that Jamaican people are seeing that corruption is increasingly a trans-national phenomenon, that the corrupt work closely across borders and are in no way restrained by concepts of sovereignty. Hence the Jamaican people increasingly understand that this combat cannot be carried out on our own. We want our international partners to work with us, not to give orders to us, but to work with us in ensuring that development aid is not diverted from benefitting the poor to end up in the pockets of criminal and corrupt elements.

In that regard we instructed Don Anderson to survey our people “on whether Jamaica’s international development partners should use level of success in fighting corrupting as assistance criteria to government.” The largest plurality 43% said Yes; 35% said No and the rest either did not know or had no opinion. With such supportive sentiments amongst our people NIAL shall certainly be calling on our partners to be more active in developing systems to plug leaks from the development assistance stream, to enhance the likelihood that aid which they give reaches the people who deserve it and to utilize our success as one criterion in helping to determine how far further increments of aid shall come. This is not a joke. The World Bank estimates that globally 20-40% of development aid, because of corruption does not reach the intended targets and that a trillion US dollars are paid globally in bribes.

In conclusion, NIAL aims at – building probity and integrity through advocacy, engagement and involvement of our people, strengthening our anti-corruption agencies, building partnerships with civil society in Jamaica, and with the Jamaican diaspora as well as with our international partners, in particular the global civil society organization, Transparency International. We are already recognized as Transparency International’s official contact in Jamaica.

A critical element in our objective is to grow into the Jamaica Chapter of Transparency International. We thank Alejandro and his colleagues sincerely for their advice and guidance from their rich global experience and particularly appreciate his presence on this special occasion. May I also thank the United Nations’ Development Programme (UNDP) through its Resident Representative for partnering with NIAL in this launch and in observing this International Anti-Corruption Day.

Most of all may I thank Prime Minister Holness for taking time out from what appears to be a rather busy schedule. Also Dr Peter Phillips from taking time out from what appears to be an equally busy schedule. We assure you and your respective organisations, as well as the Jamaican people, that NIAL intends to zealously guard its non-partisan character in pursuit of our objectives in the national interest. On this basis we look forward to your continued support and to that of your organisations in building integrity in Jamaica and the combat of the corrupt at all levels in society.