Member of Parliament for St Philip North Dr Sonia Browne today warned that corruption involves more than illegal money transactions.
In fact, she told Parliament that women were sometimes made to give a higher value than cash and forced to “get on their knees” to obtain a home.
Participating in the debate on Government’s Integrity in Public Life Bill, Browne hailed the ‘whistle-blower protection’ clause of the proposed anti-corruption legislation, saying it may prove especially useful to needy women who suffer exploitation by public officials.
“It encourages people to come forward without fear of victimization,” she said.
The whistle-blower clause offers protection for persons informing on a series of illegal activities involving public officials, once the disclosure is made in good faith.
While observing that corruption mainly involves monetary transactions, the Government spokeswoman cautioned that “bribing, at least in my constituency, is not all about money”.
Acknowledging that sexual harassment legislation was recently passed into law, she said more needed to done to protect women.
“This is the vulnerable group. There is nothing worse than taking advantage of a female who has children and no other support, who needs a home and is suffering in somebody else’s little room in the back, paying $700 a month when something could be done about it.
“No woman should have to get to her knees . . . to get a home, or anything else for that matter,” she stressed, while insisting that “I see it every day”.
Browne, a family physician, said, “of course I’m bound by patient-client confidentiality but I am meeting a lot of women who had to give up what I consider more than money to get homes”.
In supporting the new legislation, Browne said while many Barbadians had not dropped below the poverty line in the midst of an ongoing economic recession, they had suffered a fall off in their socio-economic class, while “we see others flourishing” through misdeeds.
“This is basically blatant corruption, and it is a source of frustration for our people,” Browne said, adding that she was pleased with Attorney General Dale Marshall’s assurance that fines for certain acts of corruption would be adjusted to $200,000 and $500,000, as originally proposed in an earlier Barbados Labour Party promissory document, “because I think the punishment should fit the crime.
“We have people going to prison for less in this country. We have people going into supermarkets stealing a little bit to feed their families – not that I’m saying it is right – but they spend some time in prison. And people are allegedly walking away with millions of dollars and not spending a day,” she lamented.