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Gov't needs 'high gear' to reverse corruption slide

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

THE Government was yesterday urged to "go into high gear" and deliver on its anti-corruption promises, after the Bahamas fell it its "lowest spot" in Transparency International's rankings.

Lemarque Campbell, of Citizens for a Better Bahamas, the local Transparency International contact, told Tribune Business that the Minnis administration needed to make the Integrity Commission, Freedom of Information and Fiscal Responsibility legislation its "top priority" to avoid further slippage. Emphasising that the world wanted to see "not just talk but action" from the Bahamas, Mr Campbell warned that this nation's ranking in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index could come under further pressure if the Government failed to deliver.

And he revealed that the first-ever "in country" report on corruption perceptions and experiences in the Bahamas, using Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer, is likely to be published by the end of April.

Mr Campbell expressed hopes that the findings would "drive public policy" in the fight against corruption, given that it will be based on on-the-ground sources and testimony.

He was speaking after the Bahamas dropped just four spots, from 24th to 28th, in Transparency International's just-published 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index. While still well-placed, Barbados has surpassed this nation as the Caribbean's least-corrupt country. And the Bahamas' '65' score is its "lowest" ever points tally and ranking.'

While no cause for immediate alarm, Mr Campbell warned that the Bahamas could not allow such slippage to become a trend, as it has with the World Bank's 'ease of doing business' rankings. And he pointed out that nations should be improving, not sliding, when it came to anti-corruption perceptions.'

"The decreased score for the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index may be attributed to a number of corruption scandals brought to light in 2017, as well as the corruption charges brought against some politicians," Mr Campbell told Tribune Business.

"Now is the time for the Minnis administration to go into high gear in addressing the necessary anti-corruption reforms they campaigned on, such as the full enactment and enforcement of the Integrity Commission Bill and Freedom of Information Act - which we haven't heard much about lately from the Government."

Mr Campbell said the corruption charges brought against two former Christie administration Cabinet ministers and ex-Public Hospitals Authority chairman, Frank Smith, "all send a signal to the international community".

He added: "The Minnis administration campaigned on transparency, accountability and anti-corruption. Last year was a very active year on corruption in the Bahamas. Now we need; the Government needs to implement the anti-corruption legislation they campaigned on and promised.

"We're talking the Integrity Commission Bill that was tabled, but we don't know when the debate will happen; the Freedom of Information Bill which has long been talked about but still no debate on that; and the Fiscal Responsibility Bill dealing with the Government's finances.

"The international community will be looking to see whether the administration will act on the promises made on the campaign. Fiscal Responsibility and anti-corruption were top of their agenda," Mr Campbell told Tribune Business. "Fast forward almost a year and we still don't see any movement towards finalising this legislation.

"Unless they act on it, there's going to be some concerns going forward on our ranking in these indices. It could have some effect going forward."

Mr Campbell said it was vital to investor confidence - both Bahamian and international - that this nation crackdown on corruption, taking measures to both mitigate it and punish it when proven.

"When any investor looks to invest in a country they're going to look at the 'ease of doing business', and what's related to that is corruption," he told this newspaper.

"It's very important the signals we're sending to the international community, and to our local investors. We have to protect them as well, because if corruption is around it makes it very difficult for them to do business. This has to be a top priority, not just in talk but action."

Corruption typically increases the cost of doing business for many companies, which are then almost inevitably passed on to consumer and taxpayers. It also undermines fairness, equity and integrity within an economy when it comes to conducting commerce, and acts as a breeding ground for other serious crimes.

"It's important that we mitigate corruption because corruption has always been around, and it will always be there," Mr Campbell said. "It's important countries mitigate it. It makes it easier to conduct business in a society that has less corruption.

"You don't have to worry about paying rent to a public official, and to have to pay to get things done; higher fees, arbitrary payments to public servants. All this arbitrariness is associated with a high level of corruption.

"We should strive to be a leader of good governance, not just in the region but in the hemisphere, by making the necessary reforms needed for our particular jurisdiction. In doing so, we can't just focus on emulating developed countries, such as Singapore and the UK, that have a completely different socioeconomic context to the Bahamas. We need to look at other developing countries, with contextual similarities to the Bahamas, who have made significance strides in mitigating corruption and improving governance."

Mr Campbell explained that Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 was based on results from a combination of three surveys - the Global Insight Country Risk Rating; the World Justice Project Rule of Law index; and the PRS International Country Risk Guide.

He added that a drop in one of these indexes, such as the Bahamas' two-spot fall in the World Justice Project Rule of Law index last year, would affect a country's ranking.

The Citizens for a Better Bahamas chief, though, said Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer was set to produce the first-ever report on "corruption perceptions and experiences from citizens" in the Bahamas.

"We've already conducted the survey and are finishing the report," he said. "In the coming weeks we'll have the results published on that for the Bahamas. It's the first time we'll have a real, in-depth corruption study done for the Bahamas. The hope is it will drive public policy, given that it is from the citizens themselves."

Mr Campbell said the report was likely to be released towards the end of April 2018.

Comments

Chucky 4 years, 5 months ago

the Bahamas is a corrupt nation, with corrupt people! No sense in pretending, why not embrace it, it's who "we are".

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bogart 4 years, 5 months ago

...you aint da one who gone strait to da side window stead a waitin in da long line to pay the post box rental and tink people aint know wha happin..... while ya lookin way from the line so ya cant see people screwing up dere face an suk teet huh!,,,!!!

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Porcupine 4 years, 5 months ago

Now, did the Tribune screw up this quote, or is this what Mr. Campbell really said? "It's important that we mitigate corruption because corruption has always been around, and it will always be there," Mr Campbell said. "It's important countries mitigate it. It makes it easier to conduct business in a society that has less corruption." Was anything said here? Why not? Because we are asking this same group of people, some of the most corrupt in our nation, (FNM & PLP) to pass corruption legislation that would both eliminate and possibly implicate all of them under this Bill. For the same reason we haven't modernized our government's record and book-keeping systems. TOO MANY HANDS IN THE COOKIE JAR.

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DDK 4 years, 5 months ago

"The international community will be looking to see whether the administration will act on the promises made on the campaign. Fiscal Responsibility and anti-corruption were top of their agenda," Mr Campbell told Tribune Business. "Fast forward almost a year and we still don't see any movement towards finalising this legislation.'

THE LOCAL COMMUNITY IS LOOKING TOO!!!!

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hrysippus 4 years, 5 months ago

Politicians generally are a greedy bunch, . ... They want to get paid, and want daily, a free lunch, . ... ... ...... After only eight years of working, they get a pension for their life, . .. ..
...The rest of us taxpayers have a life of graft and strife, . . . .... Most all of them appointed to one board or another, . . ... .... Pulling in an extra salary, sometimes with little bother, . .. ..... The house of Assembly is in recess for several months each year, . .. . . But members still paid monthly even if flying off somewhere, . . .... And when they fly, its all first class, the hotel room as well, ..... . .. Bringing plenty sycophants as best as I can tell. . . .. .. Some even bring their wives, for why I'm not too sure, . ... .. ... The Bahamian taxpayer paying their holiday offshore. . . .... And with all this some are still corrupt, . .. .. ......... So we voters feel like that ewe Othello tupped..

Read your Shakespeare.

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DDK 4 years, 5 months ago

All of the above because We The People allow it without protest! Unlike the ill-fated Desdemona we DO have options but just keep allowing the political elite to have it their way without a whimper.......

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birdiestrachan 4 years, 5 months ago

Campbell we may not be saints. We may not be perfect. but we have a long way to catch up with other corrupt nations, As for the persons you mentioned Smith and Gibson does it still stand one is innocent until proven guilty:??

What about the way roc wit doc lies. is that considered corruption??

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