Business

ORG lauds recent commitments on anti-corruption

Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) Executive Director Matt Aubry said recent commitments made by heads of state and government during the Ninth Summit of the Americas, drive home the urgency for The Bahamas to pass anti-corruption legislation.

Among the commitments agreed to in the Inter-American Action Plan on Democratic Governance is the pledge to “strengthen, as appropriate and according to domestic legislation, the entities responsible for preventing and combating corruption, as well as the normative frameworks and mechanisms that relate to access to public information, facilitating access and implementing policies on open data”.

Aubry, who was part of a Bahamian delegation attending the summit, held in Los Angeles, California earlier this month, said The Bahamas was integral in contributions to the strategic plan to stamp out corruption in the region.

“I had a really unique opportunity to sit down at a roundtable at the summit where we were meeting with dignitaries, and we were all talking about the concept of anti-corruption and how we address it. So we were able to contribute at that meeting. And there is a declaration that came out on anti-corruption that is, no matter what laws or technical procedures we enact to address anti-corruption, if you don’t deal with the underlying culture, a lot of those reforms are not going to happen,” Aubry told Guardian Business.

“So when we think about our work on the integrity campaign, our work toward trying to sensitize people on the need for anti-corruption laws and processes, I think it was received well and it seemed to be a meaning contribution to those discussions.

“It gives the whole region a focus on what we need to do to reduce government wastage at a time when nobody has excess money, what we can do to bring a higher level of integrity in public service and bring out more transparency and access, which is essential to citizen participation. It was a very powerful experience.”

Earlier this month, Minister of State for Legal Affairs Jomo Campbell promised that the government will bring to Parliament its anti-corruption legislation promised in the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) Blueprint for Change, which it initially said would be passed in the first 100 days.

Asked if ORG is confident the Davis administration will follow through with its promise, Aubry said “It is encouraging to know that in the Blueprint for Change, it is indicated there will be an integrity commission and ombudsman and that there will be protections for whistle blowers.

“We have had some discussions with the attorney general. Currently our accountability committee is benchmarking the public disclosure act, because that was stated as something that the government was interested in strengthening, so we are looking at how we can push forward on that to provide some independent perspective on ways to make public disclosure process functional and meaningful and better meets the need of public interest.

“There wasn’t passage of anti-corruption legislation in the first 100 days as was discussed, but I think our interest ultimately is that enough time is taken for not only the law to be looked at and made functionally sound, but also that there is a chance for wild consultation. In one hundred days it would have been very hard to establish that there was enough consultation in our communities.”

Heads of state and government also pledged to implement key government policies, platforms, and tools for open, transparent, and accessible public procurement processes, in line with globally recognized practices, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Recommendations on Public Procurement. They also pledged to explicitly address anti-corruption in relevant public contracts, as appropriate; and to establish and implement measures that enable the identification of conflicts of interest, ensuring their application in all stages of the process in question.

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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