I was completely paralyzed by the wealth of idiocy on display this week and the complete intellectual impoverishment taking place in this country. Sadly, there is only one article per week and not every yardfowl is worthy of a decent or printable response. There are still people though, who by virtue of their office, merit examination of their utterances.
The Prevention of Corruption Act (POCA), Cap. 144, dates from 1929. In 1929, Barbados was 37 years away from Independence, Queen Elizabeth II who is now 91 years of age was three years old, there was still an English Governor (i.e. a white man from England), the 1937 Riots had not yet happened and could not even have been contemplated by either Massa or the former slaves,and universal adult suffrage (when every adult could vote) would not come until 1951.
For the millennials, the internet didn’t even exist. Colonial Barbados, in all its dubious glory, was the scene for this legislation. The 1929 POCA has a grand total of 10 sections. It speaks of local and public authorities. Section 3 simply states that “any person who by himself or in conjunction with any person, corruptly solicits or receives or agrees to receive, for himself or for any other person, any gift, loan, fee, reward or advantage whatsoever as an inducement to, or for reward for or otherwise on account of any member, officer or servant of the Crown or of a public body doing or forbearing to do anything in respect of any matter or transaction whatsoever, actual or proposed, in which the Crown or such public body is concerned shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.”
Correspondingly“any person who, by himself or by or in conjunction with any other person, corruptly gives, promises or offers any gift, loan, fee, reward or advantage … shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.” We no longer have felonies and misdemeanours according to the laws of Barbados.
The punishments are outlined in section 4 and include imprisonment for two years and/or a fine of $2,400.00 together with disqualification from holding a public office for seven years or forever in the case of multiple convictions, as well as forfeiture of pension and compensation. Any person who acts asago-between or agent is liable on conviction for a misdemeanour to a fine of $2,400 and/or four months’ imprisonment. If convicted at the High Court in relation to any Crown or Government department contract to execute any work, then the penalty would be increased to imprisonment between three and seven years.
Problems come in the form of sections 9 and 10 which state respectively that “a prosecution for an offence under this Act shall not be instituted by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions”and“Proceedings…under this Act may be commenced at any time before the expiration of six months after the first discovery of the offence by the prosecutor.” In this day and age, these provisions would require a DPP willing and ready to act as well as a police force capable, equipped and willing to investigate quite possibly the same people who appointed and/or promoted them. Best of luck!
We went overseas and signed the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption on the 6th April 2001. We went overseas again and signed the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime relating to Corruption on the 26th September 2001 and took another trip and signed the UN Convention Against Corruption on 10th December 2003. The POCA, 2012 version is meant to comply with our international obligations and contains 71 provisions and 6 Schedules by comparison with the 10 previously mentioned.
A sample of the things these conventions provide for is relisted below and found in various forms in the POCA, 2012:
1. Standards of conduct for “the correct, honourable and proper fulfillment of public functions.” The standards should “prevent conflicts of interest and mandate the proper conservation and use of resources entrusted to government officials” and establish reporting requirements for government officials where they encounter acts of corruption.
2. The means to enforce the standards.
3. Systems for registering the “income, assets and liabilities of persons who perform public functions…and where appropriate, for making such registrations public.
4. Systems for collecting government funds that deter corruption.
5. Less favourable tax treatment for persons and corporations who violate anti-corruption laws in relation to expenditure.
6. Protections for whistle blowers, inclusive of protection of their identities.
7. Applicability to the following acts of corruption: bribery or solicitation in relation to the exercise or non-performance of public functions, fraudulent use or concealment of property derived from corrupt practices, conspiracy to commit any such acts, transnational bribery, significant increases in the assets of public officials which cannot be explained by their lawful earnings.
8. Provision for the “identification, tracing, freezing, seizure and forfeiture of property or proceeds obtained, derived from or used” in the commission of corruption offences.
9. Independence of prevention of corruption bodies to ensure that they remain free from undue influence in the exercise of their functions.
10. Transparency and prevention of conflicts of interest.
11. Legislative and administrative measures for political campaign financing.
12. Declarations by public officials of their “outside activities, employment, investments, assets and substantial gifts or benefits from which a conflict of interest may result.”
13. Transparent, objective and competitive procurement practices.
14. Public distribution of information relating to procurement and contracts including tenders. (i.e. freedom of information)
15. Criminalizing off-book accounting and use of false documents and destruction of records.
16. “Respecting, promoting and protecting the freedom to seek, receive, publish and disseminate information concerning corruption.” That needed to be quoted verbatim.
17. Anti-money laundering initiatives.
18. A sufficiently long or preferably no statute of limitations on the prosecution of corruption offences (as opposed to the 6 months in the 1929 POCA.)
19. Freezing, seizure and confiscation of assets.
20. International cooperation and extradition.
Let me know if you think our 1929 POCA is adequate. Let me know if you’ve ever heard of anyone being prosecuted under this Act. Let me know if you’ve ever heard of any politician, or civil servant or business owner even being investigated under this Act. I’m happy to wait.