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Customs will continue anti-corruption initiatives

Customs House Weekly

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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On October 31, 2003, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the UN's convention against corruption and since then, each year, the Assembly recognises International Anti-corruption Day in order to raise global awareness about corruption and its effects on countries and their economies, as well as the role of the UN Convention in combating and preventing it.

This year, the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA), in collaboration with its partners, the Office of the Contractor General, the Major Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Agency, and the National Integrity Action, commemorated International Anti-corruption Day on Wednesday, December 6, 2017, under the national theme 'Youth at Risk'.

Corruption typically falls under three broad areas: bribery, nepotism and misappropriation. For an act to be considered corrupt, it usually involves the following:

• Contravention of public duty

• Receipt of some form of improper inducement

• An element of secrecy, or at least without official sanction.

During her remarks at the event, Velma Ricketts Walker, CEO/commissioner of Customs, noted that, globally, Customs administrations are “vulnerable to these various forms of corruption, particularly as Customs often has control over...the release of cargo or the clearance of passengers,” but emphasised that the JCA recognises that it has a duty to conduct its affairs with the highest level of professionalism, integrity, accountability and transparency.

Against this background Walker outlined:

• The measures the JCA has instituted to combat unwarranted practices

• The policies that guide the agency's thrust to combat corruption.

The commissioner indicated that the JCA has applied international best practices through the application of the World Customs Organization's Revised Arusha Declaration (2003), which provides the practical basis for the development of a range of anti-corruption strategies relevant to the Customs-operating environment. She also pointed out that it is the policy of the agency to recruit, select and promote employees in accordance with the Public Service Regulations and Staff Orders of the Government of Jamaica.

Some of the strategies she said the agency has instituted or is currently undertaking in its efforts to prevent and combat corruption include: engaging in the security vetting of employees; introducing more modern Customs legislation; expanding its enforcement operations; implementing its rotation policy; conducting a comprehensive review of its standard operating procedures; establishing an anti-corruption ethics committee; undertaking anti-corruption sensitisation sessions; automating its operational processes; developing its Integrity Manual; and collaborating with other government agencies in identifying and combating corruption.

Walker also pointed out that the JCA has taken steps to reorganise its organisational structure to provide for more robust internal assurance mechanisms, by strengthening its Investigations and Internal Audit units, as well as establishing an Internal Affairs Unit. Additionally, she said that the JCA has integrated risk management into various facets of its operations, in alignment with international standards and best practices.

In ending, the commissioner reiterated and encouraged employees of the JCA to continue to provide exemplary, efficient and effective service in carrying out the mandates of the organisation, that of protecting Jamaica's borders, collecting revenue, and facilitating trade.

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