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Taking a firm stand on corruption

Published: 
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Afra Raymond, immediate past president, Joint Consultative Council

From “short-changing” the maxi taxi driver or the doubles vendor to companies not paying taxes to politicians using public office for private gain, there is the perception that dishonesty and corruption is a way of life in T&T.

In an almost movie-like jail break, high profile jail convict Vicky Boodram was able to flee prison only to be found in South Trinidad.

While this case provided comic relief throughout the country, it highlighted the darker issue of corruption in T&T.

Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley in August said if he were to leave his job now, he would point to corruption as the most pressing problem that the country is facing.

Yesterday the United Nations marked World Anti-Corruption Day.

According to the UN, every year US $1 trillion is paid in bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption—a sum equivalent to more than 5 per cent of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The UN said corruption is one of the biggest impediments to its Sustainable Development Goals.

Several local anti-corruption activists spoke to Sunday Business on this issue.

Beyond legislation to implementation

Afra Raymond, immediate past president, Joint Consultative Council (JCC) believes more can be done to deal with cases of corruption in the country.

“A lot more needs to be done in terms of transparency and accountability.”

Raymond said that the authorities need to move more quickly to proclaim the Public Procurement Act.

“We have been advocating for that. The law has been passed. It is a very, very good law. It now needs to be implemented. The President of the Republic has to appoint the Board of the Procurement Regulation Office after consultation with the Office of the Prime Minister and the opposition leader.”

In November, Finance Minster Colm Imbert said that the implementation of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act is contingent on the Office of the President completing the appointment of a procurement regulator and the procurement board.

Imbert said he has taken note of repeated calls on the Government from various quarters to immediately implement the legislation.

“It is worth repeating that the Public Procurement Act cannot be implemented until the Office of Procurement Regulation is fully established.”

Raymond spoke about the court case that he has been involved in since 2012 trying to get published details of the CL financial bailout.

He said the Finance Minister estimated $27.7 billion has been spent.
“I have gone to court to see who got that money. That is our money. The previous PP Government fought me in court and I won the case. The current Dr. Keith Rowley’s Government has continued in the court against me. I want to see a change to that and details of payments. It is nothing less than a first class scandal.”
Gillian Wall, President, Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT) told Sunday Business that it not necessarily that corruption is getting worse, but it could be that what has already existed is now being unearthed.
“We are seeing levels of corruption being constantly revealed, both in the public and private sector and it continues to negatively impact trust and confidence in leadership. We are becoming more aware of the instances of corruption but we are not seeing the consequences.”
Kirk Waithe, Director, Fixin’ T&T said that all of T&T’s social problems are a product of corruption which leads to poor economic circumstances.
“We are one of the richest countries in the Western Hemisphere, we are too rich to be so poor.”
He blamed the present and past Governments for not doing enough to deal with corruption and said that is it not in their best interests to deal with corruption in a serious way.
Waithe believes that if not seriously dealt with, corruption can possibly destroy a society.
“Corruption destroys homes, it destroys communities and it destroys economies.”
Sunday Business reached out to local watch-dog T&T Transparency Institute but no responses were available up to press time.
T&T slipped four points on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), from a score of 39 in 2015 to 35 in 2016, according to the Corruption Index launched in January of this year at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business.
This country’s position is now 101 compared to 72 in 2015. In 2013 and 2014, T&T had scored 38 and in 2012 the score was 39 on the CPI.

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