Minister of Justice, Senator Mark Golding, said that the Government is considering the creation of a single anti-corruption agency as part of measures to combat the scourge of corruption within the country.
Speaking at an anti-corruption forum held on Monday March 19 at the Webster Memorial United Church on Half-Way-Tree Road, Senator Golding explained that the agency will provide “a concentrated focus on the problem” and more optimal and synergistic use of the available anti-corruption resources.
The creation of this entity, he said, is in keeping with the government’s recently announced national security strategy, which focuses on going after the money and profits made from crime. This will be achieved by assembling an anti-corruption task force resourced with the required skills to effectively use the Proceeds of Crime Act and the proposed Anti-Gang legislation to combat organized crime and high level corruption.
“This is not going to be an agency like the many we have had in the past, which involves basically a paramilitary force used to tackle street level crime. This really is a more cerebral approach where we are trying to put together the necessary intellectual resources and experience that can really use these pieces of legislation effectively to dismantle the upper echelons of that type of crime in Jamaica,” Senator Golding stated.
The Justice Minister noted however, that the success of this initiative will be impacted by the efficiency and effectiveness with which cases can be prosecuted in the courts. To this end, he said, consideration is being given to the establishment of a court specialising in cases involving corruption and financial crimes.
“Jamaica’s track record in enforcing the law to bring corrupt public servants to justice is not impressive. Corruption is still rampant as evidenced in instances where apparent malfeasance in high places receive press coverage, but instances of effective corrective action have been few and far between,” he stated.
According to Senator Golding, corruption is the antithesis of a secure, cohesive and just society, said it will negate the country’s ability to attain its most desirable goals.
He said that tackling the problem will require courage and fixity of purpose on all sides. “We must all look into ourselves and commit to ensuring that we are not accomplices in the spread of this cancer in our society. We must rid ourselves of our national bad habits, which have led to this dire state of affairs. Let us commit that we will no longer “let off a money” to pass our driving tests, or to get our cars passed for fitness, or to have our building plans approved, or to avoid a traffic ticket,” the Justice Minister appealed.
He stated further that until the country commits to abiding by the proper rules and procedures in everyday activities, the accumulation of multiple small acts of corruption will result in a society that continues to score embarrassingly poorly on the international corruption indices.
“This is therefore truly a national effort, and the sooner we all get on board, the better our chances of building the brighter future that Jamaica wants and deserves,” Senator Golding stated.
Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2011 ranks Jamaica at number 86 out of 183 countries, with a score of 3.3 (on a scale of 0 to 10 where the lower the score, the more corrupt the country).
The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index 2010/11 also ranked Jamaica at 95 out of a total of 139 countries, four places down when compared to the 2009/2010 Index when Jamaica was ranked at 91. This is well below the levels of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, which are ranked 43 and 84.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter