Facilitating corruption

By Peter Espeut

On Wednesday last, this newspaper exposed the absolutely scandalous situation of widespread breaches of the Corruption (Prevention) Act by our public servants. The act requires more than 25,000 public-sector employees and officials to file annual declarations of their assets and business interests.

The latest annual report by the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (2011) reveals that since January 2003, there were some 69,086 outstanding declarations - an average of almost three per employee/official.

This is bad, but it gets much worse.

The 8,500 police of the Jamaica Constabulary Force are responsible for 24,698 of the outstanding declarations - almost three per member. Those responsible for enforcing Jamaica's laws are no better at obeying them than any other government worker.

It goes from bad to worse to worst!

The anti-corruption commission has at its disposal (GET THIS!) exactly TWO investigators to go after those responsible for the 69,086 outstanding declarations. If they each prosecute one public servant every hour every working day of the year, it will take the two of them more than 15 years to bring all current offenders to justice - by which time (at the present rate) there would be about 100,000 more outstanding declarations.


Do you think the authorities - including the politicians - want to prevent corruption? Or have they set up a system which encourages it?

Thankfully, the anti-corruption commission does not use policemen to enforce compliance (as the DPP and BSI do); otherwise, no policemen would likely be prosecuted. Monday last, 48 policemen - ranging from constable to senior superintendent - were hauled before the courts. The Gleaner reports that 33 pleaded guilty and were fined a total of $276,000 or an average of just over $8,000 each. The others are scheduled to return to court on June 17. Prosecuting all the outstanding cases should completely bung up our already clogged courts good and proper for decades!

Of course, $8,000 is less than a slap on the wrist. Why file a statutory declaration of my assets and business interests - and possibly expose myself to prosecution - when I can just ignore the law and pay a fine of $8,000? A corrupt public official should like this system, set up by politicians, of course, who have their own problems with corruption. And corrupt public servants get to keep their jobs to continue being corrupt, even if they are found guilty of corruption.

It get's even 'wussarah'.


Honest public-sector employees and officials will file true and accurate statutory declarations, indicating that increases in their assets are consonant with their salaries. But only a fool-fool public official will have an income of $1 million and publicly declare an increase in assets of $12 million! Wednesday's Gleaner reported such a case:

"A customs officer with known income of less than $1 million per annum filed declarations indicating that his assets had grown in excess of $12 million over the period 2003-2007. This included an investment of more than $7 million in an unregulated investment scheme. He subsequently pleaded guilty and was fined $700,000 on one count of illicit enrichment and $100,000 each on three counts of making a false statement on a declaration." It's like the fool-fool election-day officials who overstuffed ballot boxes above the maximum legitimate constituent count.

I'm sure this fool-fool and corrupt customs officer is still on the job. It seems that despite his million-dollar fine, he still comes out ahead in the corruption business, except for his fool-fool investment in the Ponzi scheme.

My real concern is about the intelligent but corrupt public-sector employees and officials who carefully make false statutory declarations, failing to report substantial assets in real estate, houses, vehicles and boats, and wads of cash stored in offshore bank accounts.

If the 2000 Corruption (Prevention) Act is to detect this kind of corruption, each of the 25,000 declarations of assets which should be made has to be ground-truthed (by the same two overworked investigators?) against assets actually held. It will never happen! The system was never intended to detect corruption!

The politicians who designed this act have made it so that all declarations are made to the commission IN SECRET! This is the most important and effective strategy to facilitate corruption they have devised. Were these declarations made publicly - like elsewhere in the world - there would be tens of thousands more anti-corruption investigators among the public, who would expose public officials who own three cars and three houses yet declare one each.

But the system - as designed - is working well. It is facilitating corruption.

Peter Espeut is a sociologist and Roman Catholic deacon. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com

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