A number of businesspeople in Barbados have been confessing privately to having paid bribes amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars to public officials, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Dale Marshall has revealed.
However, he said they have refused to give official statements to the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF).
Noting that he understood the fears of being branded and reputations being tarnished, not giving evidence amounted to them being “nothing more than rumour-mongers”.
And he insisted that the “private confessions” were getting the country nowhere.
“It is no good to Barbados that wrong-doing is acknowledged privately while the financial and societal consequences remain unresolved,” Marshall told a Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) breakfast discussion at the Hilton Resort on Wednesday.
“Since coming into office, some businesspeople have come forward and informed myself and others that they have paid bribes to public officials,” he revealed.
“These bribes have sometimes been in the regions of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some have come forward out of a spirit of contriteness and others have come forward perhaps only to show what villains have occupied the seats of power in this country in recent times,” he said.
Describing it as a “tragedy” when people were invited to give a statement to the police and they refused, Marshall said this hampered the chances of proceeding with an indictment against the persons who took the bribe or engaged in influence peddling.
While the issue of bribery was more pronounced immediately after the 2013 general elections here, with many charging that there was vote buying, there have been some whispers over the years of individuals paying individuals in various government departments or agencies to get approvals or a task done in their favour.
However, Marshall told the seminar themed Guided by Integrity: Moving Towards Good Governance and Reduced Corruption that when he asked individuals to make a formal report the response was “‘but I cant do that’, ‘I still have to live here’, I still have to do business here’, ‘my children still go to school at this place and that place’, and excuse after excuse”.
“We are moved to the point now where we sometimes feel like saying ‘do not waste our time’. If you are prepared to come forward and say that you did it, then help us to root it out,” he urged.
Marshall, who also promised the Integrity in Public Life Bill and supporting pieces of legislation before the end of this year, said he was just as eager as the general public to see corrupt individuals being charged and tried in the court of law.
“There is no doubt that the public readily cries out for the full weight of the law to be brought against the corrupt individuals. I believe they are right and it is our bounding duty to do so, but equally I have to say that these matters cannot proceed without evidence, either through witnesses or through incontrovertible, documentable evidence,” said Marshall.
“Evidence of corruption is not easily discovered. And no case is made or won on mere allegations,” he added.
The Government Minister stated that cases could also cost millions of dollars and take years to come to an end.
He said while it would be “fanciful” to expect evidence in the forms of documents and “other proof” waiting for him after the general election last year that would be enough for indictments to follow, that was “sadly not the case”.
“Corrupt individuals hardly leave fingerprints and each case must be made through painstaking investigation and analysis and this takes time,” he pointed out.
However, Marshall gave the assurance that the current Barbados Labour Party administration would “get it done”, but it would take time and effort. firstname.lastname@example.org