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Bahamas ‘Stagnates’ In War On Corruption

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamas is “stagnating” in the fight against corruption, Transparency International’s local representative warned yesterday, after this nation again slid in the global rankings.

Lemarque Campbell, of Citizens for a Better Bahamas, told Tribune Business that The Bahamas’ fall to its lowest-ever spot in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index reflected the Minnis administration’s failure to further deliver on promises that were a key feature of its 2017 election campaign.

While crediting the government for strengthening The Bahamas’ anti-money laundering legislation, and initiating the electronic public sector procurement system, Mr Campbell said efforts in other areas had either stalled, are inadequate or incomplete. He called for this nation to follow the likes of Malaysia and create its own National Anti-Corruption Plan to fight the menace.

The failure to finalise the long-awaited Freedom of Information Act; the lack of protection for government “whistleblowers”; the absence of political campaign finance laws; the failure to pass the Integrity Commission Bill; and uncertainties over the Public Disclosures Act were all cited by Mr Campbell as areas that combined to impact The Bahamas’ standing in the Index.

As a result, The Bahamas fell by one spot - from 28th to 29th place - and dropped further behind Barbados, which has replaced it as the Caribbean with the “least perceived corruption” in 25th spot. The Bahamas’ score of 65 in the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index was flat against the prior year performance.

Mr Campbell, explaining that the index assessed impressions or beliefs about a country’s level of corruption, added that The Bahamas’ perceived failure to progress and deliver on past government promises “sends signals to investors” - both Bahamian and foreign.

He acknowledged that The Bahamas’ 29th place ranking still places this nation among the world’s least corrupt states, and in a far better place than “extreme cases” such as Venezuela and Guatemala when it comes to battling graft.

Yet Mr Campbell said corruption, together with crime and the economy, remained a major problem in the minds/perception of the Bahamian people based on how frequently the issue was raised in conversations and radio talk shows.

“This stagnation in the score we have reflects stagnation in delivering on campaign promises,” Mr Campbell told Tribune Business of The Bahamas’ ranking in the latest Corruption Perceptions Index. “That’s all it shows. It’s one thing to enact laws, but one thing we always lack is the ability to enforce them. That plays a significant role in how these results are gathered.

“What is most important is to look at the score. That’s been the trend in the English-speaking Caribbean countries; they’ve scored exactly the same as last year, which shows complete stagnation.”

Mr Campbell pointed out that the Minnis administration was in good company, as the current governments in Jamaica and Barbados were also voted into office on the back of campaign promises to tackle graft in all its forms.

“Despite bold anti-corruption plans, this stagnation and scores shows there has been no substantial improvement in the anti-corruption regime,” he said of The Bahamas. “Fast forward almost two years from May 2017 and we’re still at the same score.”

The Citizens for a Better Bahamas advocate said the Government had not completely ignored the issue, praising it for upgrading the Proceeds of Crime and Financial Transactions Reporting Acts - albeit in response to international pressure - and for initiating the electronic public procurement system to foster greater transparency and value for money.

The latter, though, is still in its infancy, and Mr Campbell said: “Given that it’s almost been two years since this administration came to power, there’s still a lot weaknesses in the anti-corruption regime, some of which we have been facing for some years.”

He cited the Freedom of Information Act and other legislative reforms where the Minnis administration has yet to deliver on its promises, and suggested The Bahamas follow the approach Malaysia’s government has taken to combating corruption.

Having spent a recent two-week study visit with that country’s Anti-Corruption Commission, Mr Campbell said Malaysia’s current prime minister had targeted perceived graft within weeks of taking office.

“When he came to power last year, in a matter of weeks he had established the National Anti-Corruption Task Force,” he revealed. “One of its first tasks was to develop a National Anti-Corruption Plan, and they will be presenting that at the end of this week.

“I’m not aware of our anti-corruption plan. There’s bits and pieces of legislation linked to it, but we need a major national anti-corruption plan. The Government has made significant strides towards improving the ease of doing business and becoming more competitive, but in tandem with this we must ensure we’re reducing corruption.

“The public want to see some steps taken beyond prosecutions of alleged political corruption. There’s still no tangible action that we can see. We need an actual plan, a National Anti-Corruption Plan, and ensure the necessary legislation is enacted and, most important, that there’s enforcement of this legislation. If we can just see some action.”

Mr Campbell said foreign investors are now “very stringent” in examining how individual nations enforce anti-corruption laws to ensure their investments and transactions are protected as much as possible before they part with their monies.

Pointing to constant criticisms of “opaque” public procurement processes in the US State Department’s investment climate reports on The Bahamas, he added: “This sends signals to foreign investors. They’re looking at: Are they going to be protected in their transaction? Are they going to bid in a fair process and not have to pay bribes to a foreign official?

“We have to have a strong anti-corruption regime to protect both local and foreign investors, and ensure we have a level playing field.... The Bahamas is still trying to portray that image that we are open for business and, in doing so, it’s one thing to ensure the ease of doing business but we must have anti-corruption mechanisms in place.

“Those two go hand-in-hand,” Mr Campbell continued. “For us who rely heavily on foreign direct investment, this is very important for us. Most of the economy is very reliant on it. Investors want to see some improvement, some delivery on promises made.

“This Corruption Perceptions Index is a perception based on business people and international experts. They look at what the Government is doing, and if it is improving the anti-corruption regime across the board. They look at the promises made by the administration, and see if they have delivered.

“If we are trying to lure investors into the country they’re looking at what the Minnis administration is going to do in delivering on its anti-corruption promises. We have to decipher between the rhetoric and actual actions.”

Mr Campbell said delivering on its anti-corruption promises should be “the number one priority” for the Government, adding: “It’s one thing to campaign and make promises to eradicate corruption. You’re never going to completely eradicate it, but you have to reach a point where it’s controlled.”

The Bahamian public’s perception of corruption levels, he added, suggested it was not under control. “We still have reports of corrupt activity in certain ministries,” Mr Campbell said. “Corruption is still talked about a lot by the public. It’s still a concern for the public.”

He added that Transparency International will also conduct a follow-up this year to 2018’s Global Corruption Barometer survey of The Bahamas as part of a wider Caribbean regional effort.

That survey found that despite “one in 10 Bahamians” disclosing they had paid a bribe within the past year to obtain public services, few - just 6 percent - reported this corruption to law enforcement.

The findings, based on a survey of 1,000 Bahamians conducted in October 2017 by the Public Domain research firm, found that almost half were too scared of the consequences - such as potential retaliation and victimisation - to report allegations of ‘rent seeking’ by public officials.

This was despite 52 per cent of respondents deeming it “socially acceptable” to report corruption to the authorities, with the findings suggesting ‘fear’ was a major obstacle to stamping out a problem that the Prime Minister previously estimated costs the Bahamian economy some $200 million per year.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 10 months ago

EXTRA, EXTRA, COME READ ALL 'BOUT IT - Bahamas more corrupt under Minnis than it was under Christie! EXTRA, EXTRA COME READ ALL 'BOUT IT - Minnis gubbamint most corrupt gubbamint ever! LMAO

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screwedbahamian 1 year, 10 months ago

Our poor ( and becoming poorer every year because of the CORRUPT AND INCOMPETENT GOVERNMENTS we elect) Bahamian people from the age to tell right from wrong know this. The Christie led government from 2012 to 2017 created an addition and new meaning to corruption and incompetence. BOLD, OPEN, and SO WHAT??? CORRUPTION AND INCOMPETENCE IN GOVERNMENT for Bahamians and the rest of the world to witness. Recent events of THE OBAN FIASCO, and the principal committing fraud while sitting next to the Prime Minister and the WORLDWIDE NEWS of the THE FYRE FESTIVAL CON, SCAM in the Bahamas that NO ONE IN THE BAHAMAS GOVERNMENT KNOW ABOUT THAT COULD HAVE A PROFOUND NEGATIVE AFFECT ON OUR NUMBER ONE INDUSTRY OF TOURISM.

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TalRussell 1 year, 10 months ago

Yes, or no - finality reached we Colony of Out Islands when outside credible international reporting organization has had their say. What does it say about which set politicians the AG's office been prosecuting. Yes, no - make one your 21-miles long counter argument - sittin' all lofty members comrade Imperial guard? Certainly a must raise eyebrows we beloved Queen Liz, yes, no?

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John 1 year, 10 months ago

One of the basic, fundamental causes of corruption in this country is one that is perpetrated by government itself and one that is constantly given the blind eye. And that is the way foreigners and treated in respect to Bahamians and the concessions given to foreign businesses as opposed to what is given to Bahamians. The foreigners seem to get the crown, land, the tax breaks, the exemptions and the fast track through government agencies and to access documents. And in many instances many Bahamian businesses, do not get these perks and pprivileges but have to compete with the same foreign companies. So they, in turn, look for ways to reduce costs and operating expenses. And sometimes civil servants who are privy to the 'deals and breaks' the foreigners are getting, are more than happy to work with Bahamians because they feel they are being treated unfairly. And so it grows from an effort of assisting to one of greed. Just look around at the small and local Bahamian hotels and restaurants, for example. The hotels/motels and viritually dead and the restaurants, who have not adopted the fast food concept are dying. But where is the government assistance, at least for the small hotels/motels?

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birdiestrachan 1 year, 10 months ago

doc went internationally and said the Bahamas is corrupt. So what does he expect others to say.

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BahamaPundit 1 year, 10 months ago

I believe this FNM government could easily be just as corrupt as the previous PLP, except they are quieter about it and the press doesn't dig around as much. The fact that they ran on a platform of anticorruption legislation and haven't passed a single one is the most damaging evidence against them by far.

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BahamaPundit 1 year, 10 months ago

We don't have politicians in the Bahamas, we have entrepreneurs. The government is their company, and the national treasury their profits. Until our leaders are prevented from using the government as their road to riches startup company, nothing much will change, except that the corruption will become quieter and more concealed.

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DDK 1 year, 10 months ago

That's the way of it. Seems to have become a global trend. Thing is, who is to stop them?

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SP 1 year, 10 months ago

I thought it was just me that thought Minnis was full of shyt on the subject of dealing with corruption. Now I see international agencies also concluded Minnis is just another bullshyter masquerading as prime minister while facilitating the "good old boys" in ripping off our country and people!

The fact is, after 50 years of unbridled collaborative corruption across party lines, Minnis cannot effectively deal with entrenched corruption without affecting the oligarchy of the PLP AND FNM. So if crooked PLP's go before the courts, crooked FNM's will be obligated to do the same.

Bottom line is Minnis ran mainly on an anti-corruption platform which he now finds himself too weak to deliver, so he has now lost the peoples mandate!

Regardless of whatever else Minnis brings to the table, he has lost the peoples trust and will become just another corruption oriented one-term prime minister.

The Bahamas needs a 3rd party unafraid of prosecuting former PLP & FNM MP's if we are ever going to break the bonds of corruption and move our country forward.

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TreasCay 1 year, 10 months ago

Maybe it’s time to give up our independence and go back under British rule.

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BahamaPundit 1 year, 10 months ago

From a purely economic perspective, the general population would likely be much better off under British rule. The only reason for independednce was so around 20 black men and their families could become multimillionaires. Is that worth it to you?

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TreasCay 1 year, 10 months ago

That’s my point! No it’s not wort it!

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TalRussell 1 year, 10 months ago

Yes, or or - corruption by politicians/government officials and the politically connected, is no more the will of a people of a self-governing member state within the Commonwealth. than it was as a colonial ruled people from 1940 - 1945 during the former Comrade King of England The Duke of Windsor's term as Governor we Colony of Out Islands. Yes, no - tiefing, corruption, crookedness and fornication, has and will always be with we as a people?

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voiceofthepeople 1 year, 10 months ago

People like to blame every one ...but think about how you like it when it's in your favor ....when they let you slide with not paying a duty or don't book you for laws that you break...if we change we won't be The Bahamas anymore and then the visitors might as well go visit the other countries that they want us to be .I say outsiders STOP trying to change us to be Web like your contry....that's why you come here....Because It's better In The Bahamas.

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