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Government urged to accept recommendations to root out corruption

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

OPPOSITION Leader Dr Peter Phillips has urged the Government to act on the findings and recommendations of the entities set up to probe and root out corruption in the public sector in order to stem the loss of confidence in the political directorate and the country's governance systems.

Speaking at a certification ceremony for integrity ambassadors at the Merl Grove High School in St Andrew on Sunday, Dr Phillips pointed out that despite the passage over the past four decades of important pieces of legislation, such as the Contractor General Act, the Corruption Prevention Act, and whistle-blower legislation, there is a general perception among Jamaicans that corruption persists at all levels of public life, and in the political sphere in particular.

He said Jamaica's ranking on the global corruption perception index is an indicator that the situation is getting worse. “It is becoming increasingly clear that all efforts of economic and social advancement and all efforts to arrest spiralling crime rate are being undermined by corruption at all levels of the system,” he stated.

The Opposition leader insisted that the political directorate must lead by example by acting on reports such as those from the Office of the Contractor General and other agencies. “This means activism at all levels; political system, in our political parties, and at all levels of the society…When no action is taken there is a general sense that spreads across the society that the authorities are either unwilling or unable to arrest the scourge of corruption. When that happens it weakens all our institutions,” he argued.

Dr Phillips noted that the effects are manifesting with the lessening participation of the electorate, loss of confidence in the leadership of the country, and mistrust of agents of the law.

Jamaica moved down 14 places on the 2016 corruption perception index published by Transparency International, ranking 83rd out of 176 countries. With a score of 39 out of 100 this means that, based on the survey, Jamaica is closer to the midpoint between “very corrupt” and “very clean”, but having slipped from its 41 out of 100 score of 2015, the island remains among the 120 countries that scored below the 50 mark.

Transparency International noted that only a third of countries surveyed are above that mid-point. At the same time, it pointed out that a score of less than 50 means that a country has a “serious corruption problem”.

“In our index's lower-scoring countries, people frequently face situations of bribery and extortion, rely on basic services that have been undermined by the misappropriation of funds, and confront official indifference when seeking redress from authorities that are on the take. In higher-scoring countries the situation may seem less obvious in the daily lives of citizens, but closed-door deals, illicit finance, and patchy law enforcement exacerbate many forms of corruption at home and abroad,” the report said.

— Alphea Saunders