The Freundel Stuart administration is not interested in pursuing anti-corruption legislation at present because it is not a priority, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite said.
Brathwaite played down the stance taken by University of the West Indies political scientist Cynthia Barrow-Giles who indicated at a recent event that corruption was part of the political culture here, encouraged by the country’s penchant for furtiveness.
She added that the problem could not be solved by switching to a republican form of Government.
“There is corruption in this country, but we hide behind it because this country thrives on secrecy,” the lecturer in Comparative Government and Politics told a panel discussion last Tuesday at Ellerslie Secondary School on the topic: Should Barbados become a Republic – a Cross to Bear or Crown to Wear?
But Brathwaite countered that corruption was not a major problem in Barbados and it was too costly to pursue legislation against something that was not much of an issue.
“The issue with that is we do have a draft [legislation] in place. But it really calls for the setting up of a significant department in order to police the reports, do your analysis etcetera. But at a time when you are talking about cutting back on expenses, etcetera, it just didn’t seem to be priority to create a whole new department to deal with an issue that, when one looks at our reports etcetera, you would see that corruption is not a significant issue in Barbados,” he told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
“And the question really was, do we really need to spend the money on this department at this point in time? That is really what it came down to, I think.”
The Minister of Legal Affairs said Government remained committed to enacting legislation to fight corruption, “but as I said, it is a question of cost and priority”.
Brathwaite said this legislation was not the only victim of the country’s financial squeeze. He made reference to a Law Revision section in the Ministry of the Attorney General which has had to be shelved because “it calls for some additional resources”.
“I am a very practical man . . . . Maybe we would have another look at it next year when things improve. You got to be practical about these things,” the administration’s chief legal adviser said.
“Corruption is not a major issue in Barbados. If you look at how we do in terms of world corruption . . . anti-corruption index, you see Barbados always scores quite high. The irony about the whole thing is that you have countries that have everything in place; the legislation in place, anti-corruption commission in place and don’t do any well as Barbados,” Brathwaite argued.
He described discussion on the subject and other issues which he did not list as “stupid noises” and stressed that he understood “from a practical perspective” why the ruling Democratic Labour Party Government had not kept some of its promises.
Barbados did not appear on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2015 released on January 27, 2016.
During last Tuesday’s discussion Barrow-Giles said certain institutions needed to be put in place that would expose the corruption which takes place in this country.
“I’ve heard the Prime Minister of Barbados say in 2013 – he said so again in 2014 – that there is vote buying taking place in this country. If there is vote buying taking place in this country, then we need to move to stamp out the vote buying,” she told the audience.
Barrow-Giles has authored of a number of books, including, General Elections and Voting in the English Speaking Caribbean: 1992-2005.