If there are corrupt public officers in Barbados, they are being facilitated by dirty private sector businessmen and women who are prepared to bribe them for favours.
That caution has come from Jamaica’s former contractor general Greg Christie, the anti-corruption czar who held the position between 2005 to 2012.
Addressing the topic, The Role, Benefits and Deficits of the Jamaica Contractor General Construct – The Governance Perspective today during the Barbados Stock Exchange’s annual Corporate Governance and Accountability conference at the Hilton Barbados Resort, Christie was emphatic that corruption was not a public sector problem alone.
“The phenomenon of systemic corruption is, without question, significantly related to poor standards of leadership, governance, accountability and transparency in government,” he said, adding that “systemic corruption is a phenomenon that is also closely associated with certain societal considerations, such as low social, moral and ethical values, as well as poor governance standards within the private sector”.
According to the attorney, “grand corruption in public procurement, in any country, cannot take place without the direct complicity of actors in the private sector”. He therefore suggested that regional private sectors “must begin to effectively co-own the problem of public sector corruption, and, in particular, the bribery of public officials, and view it as a serious corporate governance deficit”.
And in an ominous warning, the Jamaican told the room filled with company executives and corporate attorneys, that left unchecked, corruption “leads to human rights violations, steals political elections, distorts financial markets, reduces investor confidence, and increases the price of goods and services”.
Moreover, he said it “undermines or destroys confidence in critical public institutions, and enables organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish”.
Christie, regarded as an aggressive regulator in Jamaica who investigated several high-profile entities suspected of bribes and underhanded deals in the procurement of Government contracts, insisted it took two hands to clap when it came to corruption.
In this connection, he called for tough laws to hold the entire private sector to the same standards expected of those in the state apparatus.
“Voluntary cooperation, however, by only some private sector entities, will not go far enough if corruption in public procurement is to be effectively tackled throughout the region. I would respectfully submit that a level playing field to comprehensively confront the issue of corporate bribery must be sought.
“Regional governments should give serious consideration to modernising their anti-corruption legislative frameworks, to include an anti-bribery component that directly addresses bribery that is committed by representatives of business entities.”
Christie also dismissed suggestions that corruption in a country was driven by bureaucracy in the public sector. Instead, he argued that it was greed rather than attempts to sidestep bureaucratic delays.
“The simple point that we should grasp is that the fight against public sector corruption is unlikely to succeed without a targeted focus upon private sector bribery.”
Several local business leaders have been highlighting the scourge of corruption in Barbados with emphasis on reports of vote buying during the last general election and the award of contracts by state entities.