KINGSTON – There was a 27 per cent drop in citizens reporting that they had been asked for bribes by public officials, or in the workplace, a 2010 Latin American Public Opinion Project Americas Barometer poll has revealed.
This was down from 2006, when data showed that some 35 per cent of Jamaicans had been asked for bribes by public officials.
The figure (in 2010) was less than eight per cent, Mission Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Dr. Karen Hilliard disclosed, as she outlined the findings of the poll at the first regional law enforcement anti-corruption conference, under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), held today March 22, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. The poll was undertaken by the USAID.
“Administrative corruption in Jamaica is definitely on the wane. In other words, the solicitation and payment of bribes to public officials, including teachers, health workers, local government officials, the courts, and the police, has dropped dramatically,” she stated.
Dr. Hilliard said the Government of Jamaica (GoJ) is to be congratulated for the strides it has made in stamping out corruption, particularly in law enforcement.
She pointed out that through the National Integrity Action Forum (NIAF), which was launched by the USAID and the GoJ two years ago, individual institutions, including the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), have articulated their resolve to root out corruption.
The Director noted that beginning last year, the JCF, with international development support from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, has undertaken a major effort to identify and dismiss corrupt law enforcement officers.
“For the first time in recent memory, hundreds of officers have been refused re-enlistment, retired in the public interest and even prosecuted for corruption,” she stated, highlighting that there are some 60 such cases pending in court for 2010, with 13 having resulted in convictions.
“So, we can see that there is movement in the right direction,” the Mission Director remarked.
Dr. Hilliard commended the regional law enforcement officials for coming together at the conference to devise concrete agreements about how to tackle crime collectively.
She stressed the importance of those in the government service being mindful that, “we cannot and will not regain the confidence of the average man until he sees that the law applies equally to all of us, and that not only the humble, but also the powerful can be charged and prosecuted for using public office, for private gain."
The inaugural two-day conference, being held under the theme, ‘Towards Regional Co-operation and Anti-Corruption’, is a collaboration among the National Security Ministry, the JCF’s Anti-Corruption branch, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the USAID. It brings together law enforcement professionals, advocacy groups, civil society, ministerial policy makers, and academia, to address issues of corruption and its effects on law enforcement.
The forum will also serve as a platform for the formation of a regional law enforcement anti-corruption network, and practitioners will participate in drafting guidelines of regional collaboration on law enforcement and anti-corruption.
Participating countries and organisations include: CARICOM states, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Dutch and French territories of the region; the United Nations Development Programme, the Organisation of American States, embassies and high commissions based in Jamaica, the University of the West Indies, and the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security.
By ALPHEA SAUNDERS, JIS Reporter