ATTORNEY GENERAL OF BARBADOS ADDRESSES OPENING OF A U.K. SPONSORED WORKSHOP ON BRIBERY & CORRUPTION AT ACCRA BEACH HOTEL ON 9TH JANUARY 2012
I would like to thank the British High Commission for hosting this important dialogue which will serve to benefit our private and public sectors and enhance our partnership in combating bribery and corruption at the national level and across the Caribbean region. I have no doubt that this workshop will further heighten the awareness of the harmful effects of corruption and reemphasize the necessity to implement and strengthen measures to prevent this scourge in our countries.
I would also like to take this opportunity to applaud the UK government for their commitment over the years in working together with CARICOM member states to realize the mandate of our leaders of making anticorruption a priority.
You have gathered at this workshop to take advantage of a window of opportunity, to share experiences, refine your understanding about effective practices and search for new and better ways to work together domestically and internationally to address a problem of great importance to us all. Perhaps, more importantly than the practical insights exchanged, your presence here signals the political will and commitment of our governments to engage seriously in this fight and to follow-up our words with meaningful actions.
In recent times, whether via the media or in the conference rooms of several international organizations, there has been much attention on the topic of corruption and its destabilizing social and economic effects on global societies. It is well documented that corruption, the abuse of public office for private gain, robs citizens’ expectations for improvements in service deliveries, undermines trust in public institutions, particularly in the judiciary and security forces, and hinders investments by increasing the cost of doing business and distrust in investment security. There are clear correlations between corruption levels and a country or region’s degrees of social, economic and political development.
It seems not accidental that nations with higher perceived levels of corruption also have lower levels of development. However, it should be noted that poverty does not automatically translate into higher levels of corruption contrary to popular belief. We have seen in the past cases of embezzlement by prominent private sector executives and members of congress in the U.S and other affluent societies. There is a better argument that poverty is a result of corruption rather than a cause as it deprives a country of revenue which can be used to develop its people.
Here in Barbados, we have been making deliberate efforts to improve our anti-corruption regime. Our current Prevention of Corruption legislation was enacted in 1929, however, in July, 2011 the Prevention of Corruption Bill, 2010 was placed before a Joint Select Committee of Parliament comprising Members of Government and the Opposition from the House Assembly and the Senate for further discussion.
The Terms of Reference of this Committee, inter alia, are:
• To inquire into and determine whether the Act as drafted effectively fulfills its comprehensive and multi-disciplinary approach to prevent and combat corruption and prevent damage to our democratic institutions, the management of our public affairs, our national economy and the rule of law.
• To examine whether the Act as drafted will upon effective implementation contribute to increased political stability and our sustainable development, ultimately eradicating organized crime from our economic landscape.
Members of the public, professional organizations, community-based groups and any other interested persons have been invited to express their views with respect to the Bill for review by the Joint Select Committee. This process is expected to be completed soon.
The Prevention of Corruption Bill embodies the provisions of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, Articles 8 & 9 of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime relating to Corruption and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.
Thankfully, Barbados has enjoyed a high level of transparency. As a matter of interest, Transparency International has ranked Barbados at number 16 out of 183 countries or territories around the world, with a score of 7.8 on its Corruption Perceptions Index 2011. It is noteworthy that this ranking places Barbados in the lead above its Caribbean peers and we conscientiously guard this esteemed ranking and desire to achieve even a higher rating.
The Government has already enacted the Trans-national Organised Crime (Prevention and Control) Act, 2011-3 which will be proclaimed this month. This legislation embodies the provisions of Articles 8 and 9 of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime that criminalizes corruption and implements measures to prevent, detect and punish public officials involved in corruption.
Notwithstanding the imminent discussion of the Prevention of Corruption Bill, by the Joint Select Committee, Barbados already possesses a robust regime to counter corruption. We have a solid legislative framework of measures to prevent and combat corruption through respect for transparency, good governance principles, high ethical and professional requirements and a reasonably efficient court system to ensure that judicial decisions are enforced. Thus the enactment of the new legislation will serve to further fortify this regime.
Barbados is keen to protect its financial services sector and is a member of several international organizations that undertake economic assessments and the evaluations of anti-money laundering regimes, such as the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force.
We have grasped and fully understand the importance of improving transparency of our financial system by complying with the Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) standards which incorporates the detection, investigation and prosecution of corruption and money laundering, the recovery of stolen assets, promoting information exchange and international cooperation.
Thus with the passage of the Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (Prevention and Control) Act, 2011 and the enhanced compliance with the Financial Action Task Force’s 40+9 Recommendations on money laundering and financing of terrorism, Barbados has improved its anti-corruption efforts.
So legislatively, Barbados has effective laws and procedures to freeze, seize and confiscate proceeds of several offences. The Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (Prevention and Control) Act, 2011 amended the Proceeds of Crime Act, 1990 by extending the arm of the law to a wider array of offences than merely the offences relating to drug crimes. The legislation also makes provision for financial regulation to facilitate domestic and international information exchange.
In addition, The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, 1982 was also amended in 2011 to allow Barbados or a foreign country to seek reciprocal assistance in obtaining a Forfeiture or Confiscation Order in relation to a serious offence, including corruption.
High Commissioner Brummell, this Workshop is timely in light of Barbados’ process in reviewing the Prevention of Corruption Bill, 2010. I am sure participants will benefit from the experiences to be shared and lessons learnt by the United Kingdom with respect to the anti-corruption and anti-bribery efforts and the provisions of the UK Bribery Act.
Before I close let me make one further point and this is probably the most important, if CSME is to work and if CARICOM is to be truly effective corruption across the region must be addressed. The region’s overall performance in the already referred to transparency International Corruption Perception Index is abysmal. The caribbean’s modest resources make fighting corruption a priority. The devastating impact of waste, fraud and inefficiency in our countries economies, social development and political systems is much greater than on countries with abundant resources. The provision of adequate Health care, education and housing i.e the basic necessities for our people can be seriously undermined.
In closing, let me take the opportunity to wish the British High Commission a successful and productive Workshop and to reiterate that the prevention of corruption and the improvement of transparency in the public and private sectors will continue to be a priority for my government.