ORG says CPI rank drop should serve as “wake up call”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Noting that the government tabled legislation early on its term to strengthen its anti-corruption regime, but has failed to debate and pass those bills, Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) Executive Director Matt Albury said yesterday that The Bahamas’ drop in rank on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2018 should prompt the Minnis administration to take more action.

The Bahamas dropped from 28 to 29 on the global CPI index.

The report, which was published by Transparency International yesterday, measures the perceived levels of corruption in the public sector in 183 countries across the globe.

Notwithstanding the drop in rankings, The Bahamas maintained its CPI score of 65.

In an interview with Eyewitness News Online, Albury pointed out the government tabled legislation in Parliament in mid-2017, including the Integrity Commission Bill, which would establish a comprehensive anti-corruption body and legislate a code of conduct for people in public life.

However, he suggested there was more talk about eradicating corruption in The Bahamas than action.

“Here in The Bahamas, although we have had a lot of discussion about transparency and anti-corruption methods in the last couple of years, the substantive move to address it hasn’t really moved right,” Albury said.

“We have a very comprehensive bill in the Integrity Commission, which had been tabled for years.

“ORG did a lot of work to bring forward and get public consultation from lots of different sources..”

He continued, “We have to stop doing the same old thing.

“We see periodic corruption trials with this administration and corruption issues with the last, but we don’t see other things being sufficiently addressed.

“Let’s go ahead and put something in place to ensure that when they (corruption issues) do come up in future they will be [addressed].

“We have to learn, all of us, to start to look a little bit longer term and invest some of that energy that we all expend on social media and the immediate marches, and all of the things that are very reactive in some ways, to how can we make a longer-term strategy.

“We see this bill and a campaign around integrity as being two major things that could start to change that direction.

“We are hoping it is a wakeup call.

“We are going to take the opportunity to reach out and we encouraged folks to come and check us out on our website as well as joining other groups that are dedicated to this effort.

“If we can get folks informed and involved, we have a better than good chance.”

The Integrity Commission Bill provides for the establishment of a council to investigate parliamentarians suspected of corruption.

The bill would also impose possible imprisonment and fine on parliamentarians who fail to disclose their assets.

The bill would repeal the Public Disclosures Act.

The government also tabled the Ombudsman Bill 2017.

The ombudsman would have the power to enter any government department of division to inspect the premise and conduct interviews or examine any document relevant to the complaint, except in some special circumstances.

As it relates the CPI ranking, Albury said the average Bahamian recognizes there is a culture of corruption in The Bahamas on some “basic level”.

“We would all kind of agree we want to make sure the politicians don’t get away with putting stuff in their pockets and get away with it,” he said.

“There is a continuum that really talks about our acceptance and comfort with corruption at the basic level; our ability to get hired by friends, family and lovers; our ability to pull over something at the bottom of your bag so that customs doesn’t find it; our ability to use someone that we would know to get past or through long lines at government institutions; and this has a direct relationship to what goes on in terms of a culture of corruption in a country.”