Government will be seeking outside help to continue its investigations into alleged corrupt practices so that charges can be brought against those found guilty, Attorney General Dale Marshall has disclosed.
He said this was necessary since the country did not have the manpower to carry out the kind of investigation needed.
In fact, Marshall said the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the department of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) responsible for the investigation of corruption, had only three people, and the type of corruption that has been taking place here is “sophisticated”.
“You probably hear us talking ad nauseam about corruption. One of the things that is evident is that much as Trinidad did, we are going to have to bring in outside assistance to help us with investigations we have to carry out,” Marshall told journalists during the annual general meeting of the Barbados Association of Journalists and Media Workers on Sunday.
“It is not to be seen as a dim reflection on the Royal Barbados Police Force, but there are some practical things . . . The thing is, we simply do not have the manpower to deal with it,” he said.
In a matter of weeks Government is expected to put forward legislation to address organized crime and anti-corruption, which will make way for the establishment of an integrity commission.
It is expected that this new agency will function in partnership with the RBPF and will have law enforcement and investigative powers but not necessarily manned by police officers.
Marshall said the focus of the new agency, which should become a reality in the “second half of the financial year”, would be to investigate corruption, and he promised that it would be given “all the tools necessary” to function effectively.
Barbados TODAY understands that the financials of several government departments could come under the microscope including those mentioned in Auditor General Reports regarding the procurement activities and financing of some projects.
Marshall told journalists that investigations have been ongoing into a number of suspected corrupt practices and while there was “evidence that is actionable”, authorities simply did not have enough or the evidence was too weak to bring a case.
“Corruption, as we are seeing it, is infinitely more complex and sophisticated, and in order to be able to investigate and bring a case we need to draw on skillsets that are not readily available here,” insisted Marshall.
He could not immediately say where the help for Barbados would be coming from, or how much it would initially cost government.
However, saying that the process of bringing help was “far advanced, he promised that whatever assistance the country secured would also be utilised to help local officials learn and develop new skills.
Pointing to the ongoing work, Marshall gave the assurance that the promise by the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration to tackle the issue of corruption was not just another talk shop.
He said it was necessary that certain measures were put in place including the planned whistleblower legislation, the new Anti-corruption Act, and the Proceeds and Instrumentalities of Crime Act.
“So our commitment to putting these legislative instruments in place is not just with a view of looking to the past but definitely with a view to looking to the present and the future. Our reputation has suffered tremendously and we need to bring that back up,” he said, while promising the whistleblower legislation by April next year.
He urged residents to have patience as Government continued to carry out investigations into alleged corrupt practices.
“So while people would want us to run and put people before the court, we are not in a position to do that yet. We have things which certainly indicate to us corruption, but we can’t operate in the way that the average citizen would like us to . . . and as I have said, the kind of corruption that has been taking place in Barbados is quite sophisticated,” said Marshall.
“We’ve done a fair amount [of investigation] and we have found a fair amount of things. We are bringing in overseas people to add to that work, but I am quite confident that our patience will be rewarded,” he promised.
He also used the occasion to apologize for the delay in bringing the long-touted Freedom of Information Bill, pointing out that there were over 75 other pieces of legislation that Government had to attend to over the past year in order to avoid certain sanctions or to address other “urgent” issues.
“That is not to say that freedom of information does not remain as relevant to us now as when we were in Opposition. As for our timeframe, I am able to say that we are beginning the work on trying to decide what a freedom of information bill will look like,” he said, as he promised to get input from stakeholders.
Marshall also gave the assurance that the Integrity in Public Life Bill was still on the cards and a draft should be laid in Parliament by October. [email protected]