One of Barbados’ development partners is concerned that there is still too high a level of perceived corruption in the Caribbean and Latin America.
The issue of corruption came under the microscope on Wednesday during the online session of the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), when officials presented the 2019 report on economic development titled Integrity in Public Policy: Keys to Prevent Corruption.
Presenting the key findings and recommendations of the survey, Dr Gustavo Fajardo, Principal Research Economist at CAF, said there continued to be concerns when it came to integrity in public policy because any form of corruption had the ability to significantly reduce any benefits a state or its population would otherwise realise.
He explained that on one hand corruption had the ability to reduce the states’ capacity to adequately deliver quality goods and services and it could also reduce productivity and innovation in the private sector “because it distorts the incentives that firms and individuals make”.
“Perhaps the most worrying aspect is that it can also erode trust in public institutions and in our systems,” said Fajardo.
In the 2020 Transparency International Perception Index, Barbados was ranked at 30 out of 180 countries, with a score of 62 out of 100, indicating the perceived level of public sector corruption.
One hundred is very clean and zero indicates high corruption.
The CAF report did not examine the Barbados market, however, Fajardo said while there was no good statistics about the prevalence or frequency of corruption in the Caribbean, there were some “clear hints”.
“For example, household surveys reveal that this is an ongoing high concern for Latin Americans and different countries in the region,” he said.
According to the CAF sample survey, 23 per cent of the Latin America and Caribbean population reported that they have solicited a bribe by an official in the last 12 months.
Meanwhile, ten per cent of business executives and owners reported that firms pay bribes to win public contracts.
The research indicated that 51 per cent of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean, considered corruption a major problem.
Fajardo recommended that authorities use protocols and objective criteria for decision-making when it came to public sector projects, adding that auditing institutions were fundamental for oversight of such ventures.
He also advised that governments ensure accountability by developing investigative capacities and administering justice where necessary.
In relation to elections, Fajardo urged governments to promote competitive and transparent electoral systems, employ mechanisms that ensure civil servants being recruited were based on merit, and enforce legislation.
He also encouraged governments to “increase the attractiveness of public office”, pointing out that a higher percentage of people who preferred jobs in the public sector had a higher degree of tolerance for corruption.
“One thing that is very clear when we look at worldwide research is that the type of individuals that are attracted to public office co-related with what are the prevailing perceptions of integrity in the country,” he said.
He further suggested that in relation to the wider population, in an effort to control and eliminate corruption, there was value in governments providing high quality, relevant, timely, accessible, clear and comprehensive information and freedom of information acts.
He said there should also be guaranteed access to and effectiveness of channels to demand accountability.
Pointing out that some sectors and areas were “more prone to corruption by their very nature” including construction and public infrastructure projects, Fajardo suggested that there should be anti-corruption policies that were specific to various sectors.
He cautioned that authorities should pay close attention to strengthening laws to discourage institutions from offering bribes.
He also recommended more open procurement processes that maximize competition; a minimization in “subjective criteria” to award contracts; development of stronger mechanisms to evaluate and renegotiate public infrastructure projects; and increased transparency and use of experts.