Tie 'pieces of puzzle' for better corruption ratings




Tribune Business Editor


The Bahamas was yesterday urged to "tie together" all the initiatives it has undertaken to combat graft after it maintained its 30th spot in Transparency International's corruption perceptions index.

Matt Aubry, the Organisation for Responsible Governance's (ORG) executive director, told Tribune Business that while it was "good to know we're not dropping" this nation can improve its ranking by "connecting all the pieces of the puzzle" underway in the bid to fight and reduce corruption.

The Bahamas, with a score of 64, just maintained its position in the top sixth of 180 countries ranked by Transparency International and finished just a few places below the US. However, Barbados - as the only Caribbean state ranked higher than this country - continued to improve its score and ranking, although The Bahamas finished ahead of the likes of Spain, Portugal, Israel, Qatar and Italy.

Mr Aubry, though, suggested to this newspaper that The Bahamas has the potential to join Barbados and improve its position in the Transparency International rankings by explaining to outside observers how initiatives such as the digitisation of government services; new procurement laws; the recently-debated Ombudsman Bill; and enactment of the Freedom of Information Act all link together to battle corruption.

"I still think the fact there's no indication of momentum is based on us not connecting all the pieces we've put in place to have an impact," he argued. ORG, at its anti-corruption conference last year, had put together a detailed framework to map all the work that is being done and areas where there is still room for improvement, with the Government, private sector and civil society all playing their part.

"There have been a number of indications of improvement," Mr Aubry said, pointing also to the Government's promises to reform the Public Disclosures Act and create and Integrity Commission. "All of these things have a day-to-day impact if we pursue them collectively," he added.

"Showing how these things can work is key. We've heard before in The Bahamas that we work in silos and that's not just true in government but every sector." The ORG chief, though, asserted that there is significant value in reducing perceptions of corruption by improving this country's ranking in the Transparency International index.

"It reduces the potential perception that still exists that there's prevailing corruption here," Mr Aubry told Tribune Business. "It still has a detrimental element in The Bahamas, it's important that we work against that. Tying these initiatives together can bring benefits in terms of reputation and also opportunity.

"We have to be more explicit talking about them. There's more to be done, but it shows we're building a good foundation." Mr Aubry acknowledged that ratings such as those of Transparency International are to be taken "with a grain of salt" given that it was uncertain where the information had been obtained from, who had been interviewed and what benchmarks were being employed.

Still, he added: "There's an opportunity to grow and build our reputation. When we put these things together, the perception of corruption can be reduced and there's important value in that. That benefits us all across the board.

"Presenting The Bahamas as a place of integrity brings immediate value and opportunity by encouraging local businesses to invest, local community members to believe the system works, and building a lot of attention and positive information related to external investors so they feel this is a place where they can come and build best practices rather than a place where you succeed if they don't pay attention to what you do."


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