31 March, 2009

Resist Bribery


Resisting Extortion and Solicitation in International Transactions (RESIST). Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute is on the ball. They have sent out the following circular:



Knowing how to respond to inappropriate client demands can be challenging for company employees, especially if the demand is accompanied by a threat. But help is now at hand in the form of a practical new tool, launched today, to help business better address the risk of solicitation and extortion.

RESIST (Resisting Extortions and Solicitations in International Transactions) – jointly developed by the International Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Transparency International, the UN Global Compact and the World Economic Forum – raises employee awareness of how to prevent demands from being made, and sets out practical measures on how to respond to dilemmas in the most efficient and ethical manner when they cannot be avoided.

“In the current economic climate the temptation to take inappropriate action can be hard to resist,” said Fran├žois Vincke, Chair of the ICC Commission on Anti-Corruption, which encourages business self-regulation to fight corruption. “But staving off solicitations and extortions is vital to maintaining a fair and open trading system.”

Over 20 companies and organizations contributed to make up the RESIST portfolio of 21 real-life situations. Covering a wide range of solicitation dilemmas, each scenario addresses how to prevent propositions occurring and how best to react when demands are made. In addition, RESIST provides general recommendations, which apply to most situations and can be considered good practice.

Launched today, the first part of the RESIST tool comprises seven scenarios relating to solicitation in the context of the procurement process. The second part of RESIST, focusing on project implementation, will be published by the end of the year.

Many companies are vulnerable to solicitation and extortion when going about their daily business and in an attempt to demonstrate engagement in the fight against bribery and corruption, many have implemented complex compliance programmes. But despite the negative effects on international trade and investment, solicitation in public procurement and project implementation is not addressed by a number of existing anti-bribery conventions to date.

Designed as an easy-to-use tool to help companies better address the risk of solicitation, RESIST can be used in training sessions related to ethics and integrity. Recognizing that demands may be made by a client, business partner or public authority, RESIST can help trainers stimulate open discussions on the risks employees face and the steps they can take to eradicate them.

ICC has been concerned about the effects of corruption on international trade for more than 25 years and has developed a range of tools to guide business on the issue. These include:

ICC Guidelines on Whistleblowing

Clean Business Is Good Business: The Business Case against Corruption

Fighting Corruption: International Corporate Integrity Handbook

ICC Rules of Conduct and Recommendations for Combating Extortion and Bribery

Click here to download the .pdf file.

This is the first part of a comprehensive tool to counter corruption. The second part will be published later in the year. It should all be compulsory reading for all government officers and corporate staff doing business in more than one jurisdiction. That includes Anguilla.


26 March, 2009

Amends


Hon Hubert Hughes returns free government car to the Chief Minister's Permanent Secretary. I was pleased when I heard the news on the radio this morning. Hubert Hughes took a big hit in his popularity in Blowing Point when he accepted the free car given to him by government last year. He gave it back yesterday. He has gone some way to making amends by this gesture.

I don't know if he realises quite how he was used by government. He was turned into both a guinea pig and a scapegoat at the same time. He came out of the exercise looking very bad. I see his return of the car as an attempt to recover some of the political capital that he lost.


Each Minister of government in Anguilla drives a government car. These vehicles are serviced and gassed at regular intervals, I presume, at the tax payer's expense. It was, as I recall, in the budget debate for last year that the Hon Chief Minister announced that the Ministers were working so hard, they deserved the 40% hike in pay that they were awarding themselves. They so deserved all the increases and bonuses that he announced that he would in addition be proposing that, when this administration came to an end in the year 2010, each Minister should be permitted to take home his government car. It would be given to him by a grateful nation in appreciation for all the hard work and sacrifice.


When this announcement was made, there was outrage expressed in the community. It is true that the government revenue was doing well at the time, and the public purse could afford the generosity. But, the average Anguillian can smell a rotten fish when it is put down on the table in front of them. Now that the economy is in the pits with the world-wide recession, the sullenness when you raise the topic with the average Anguillian is almost palpable.


So, during the year following the announcement that the ministers were taking home their cars at the end of the term came the experiment. It was announced last year that the government so appreciated the work of the two members of the opposition that they were to be given brand new cars for their private use. The explanation was that Hubert Hughes and Edison Baird, as Members of the House of Assembly, drove up and down the country giving lifts to old ladies and doing other community work, and deserved a government vehicle to do it in.


At a ceremony attended by all the members of the Anguillian press, Mr Hughes accepted the keys to a vehicle. It was clearly stated that government had decided to give Mr Hughes the vehicle. He accepted the keys with words of thanks and appreciation. The speeches made in handing over the car and in accepting the car were broadcast over and over again on the radio. The language used at the hand over of the keys appeared to say that the ownership of the car was being transferred to Mr Hughes. That was the only interpretation that one could give to the language of the hand over.


Mr Baird announced that he would not be accepting the offer of a free vehicle. That shows us how politically astute Mr Baird is. It was a brilliant stroke of political genius. Just as the government's attempt to discredit the opposition might be counted a brilliant stroke of political genius.


I also assumed that Mr Hughes had taken title to the vehicle. I published a post on this blog condemning the gift of ownership of a vehicle, or money's worth, to the members of the opposition.


Even Mr Hughes' son Haydn Hughes evidently assumed that his father was taking title to the vehicle. He wrote and published articles in mitigation of his father's decision to accept the gift. He wrote that Mr Baird was not doing anything different. He wrote that Mr Baird's acceptance of the money was just as bad as accepting the car.


Government members took up the refrain that Mr Baird was accepting in cash the value of a vehicle in lieu of taking possession and ownership of an actual vehicle. Mr Baird got very upset at that suggestion. What he was doing, he pointed out, was to accept the small travel allowance that had long ago been passed into law as the entitlement of every member of the House of Assembly. He was not, as everyone assumed, taking the monetary value of a car similar to the one that Mr Hughes had taken possession of.


There was public outrage expressed in radio talk shows and letters to the editors. Taxi drivers sitting in conference at the airport and at the sea port spluttered their indignation. Underpaid nurses, teachers, and police officers were observed lifting their eyebrows in disbelief and sucking their teeth loudly. Emails flew about the country from one end to the other. All condemned the decision of Mr Hughes to take ownership of a government vehicle. It was obvious to even the most jaded and cynical Anguillian that it can never be correct for public materials and money to be donated by politicians to themselves. Not, at any rate, without the sanction of a law debated and passed in the House of Assembly.


Within days of the hand over the story changed. Both the government and Mr Hughes announced that the intention had never been to “give” Mr Hughes a vehicle. The intention all along had only been to give Mr Hughes the “use” of a government vehicle. If that had been the plan all along, why, one wonders, was it not announced as such.


My conclusion is that it was partly an attempt to tar Mr Hughes with the same brush as the government ministers. If government Ministers were to suffer politically from the announcement that they were going to take home their vehicles permanently at the end of their term in 2010, then the opposition would not be allowed to take the high moral road. They would be destroyed by giving them each a free vehicle.


It was also, I assume, partly an attempt to see just how furious the public would get at this act of generosity towards Mr Hughes. Would they accept that the gift was the right of Mr Hughes as a member of the Assembly? If so, that would suggest that there was not much opposition to the idea that Ministers should be able to take home their cars. If the gift was met by significant outrage, then the idea could be quietly scrapped, leaving Mr Hughes the only member of the House of Assembly to have received ownership of a free government vehicle.


Only Mr Baird appears to have seen through the stratagem, and avoided the trap set for the members of the opposition.


By giving the vehicle back to government, Mr Hughes has attempted to recover some of the reputation and integrity that he lost when he was made the scapegoat for this proposal by government ministers to give themselves a government car. His intention was clear from the public way he chose to return the keys. He invited the same press to be present when he handed the keys to the Permanent Secretary. He made sure his action was widely broadcast.


Only time will tell if he has been successful in this tactic.



21 March, 2009

Maundays Bay


Maundays Bay Beach suffers by far the most egregious of the encroachments on the ancient public right of access to the West End beaches. According to my information, the land records show three access points for the public to get to Maundays Bay beach. These are at the east, centre, and west of the beach. At various times over the years, every government of Anguilla has addressed the Anguillian public and declared that the owners of Cap Juluca Hotel, or the new owners, understood the importance of maintaining the public rights of way. Chief Ministers have made much publicized tours, and insisted from time to time that the security gate be taken down. One such much publicised tour of the hotel took place as recently as 19 February 2007. In spite of these warnings and demands, the security gate, and the hindrance to the right of way that it constitutes, remains in place. Indeed, it has recently been renovated and enlarged.


The eastern access to Maundays Bay Beach is found by turning left after you pass the security gate and enter the hotel driveway. The car park is marked by a sign, “Public parking”. Pimms Restaurant lies a hundred feet further on, and has a car park that we often used when the public car park was full.


The public car park sign


There used to be a sign indicating “public access to the beach”, where the track now leads from the public car park, past the hotel spa or “wellness centre”, to the beach. It disappeared after the passage of Hurricane Omar in October 2008. In its place is a new sign pointing to the "main house" and the "wellness centre".


The sign to the wellness centre where the public access to the beach sign used to be


After Hurricane Omar, the public beach access sign at the start of the pathway to the spa was removed. Either the hurricane destroyed it or the opportunity was taken to remove it during the renovations. If the hurricane destroyed the sign, it has not been replaced, as it should have been. The hotel has replaced other damaged signs. New signs have gone up. There is now a prominent new sign a few feet before the public car park indicating access from Maundays Bay to Cove Bay.


The new sign to Cove Bay Beach next to the public car park


If you take the paved pathway past the fitness centre, you will see persons who appear to be visitors to the island sitting on their folding chairs with their coolers that they have brought with them.


The public foot path to the beach at the eastern end of the beach, with what appears to be non-residents sitting on their personal folding chairs, and with their coolers of drinks next to them


I no longer see Anguillians taking advantage of this now semi-concealed amenity. Since the sea grape trees have been largely removed, shade is at a premium. Only a few persons at a time can use this spot to enjoy the beach and the sea.


The eastern end of the beach showing the loss of sea grape cover


At this eastern end of Maundays Bay Beach, access to the beach must be achieved by submitting to questioning by security guards at the gate about what your business is at the hotel, and then sneaking down to the beach either via the walkway to the Spa or using the path next to Pimms Restaurant.


The hut in 2007 with the gate post in action


This procedure seem designed to make the prospective visitor to the beach feel like a trespasser. Only a visitor to the island, easily identifiable as the one driving a vehicle with a rental licence plate, is likely to be waved through security without having to submit to such cross-examination.


Government after government has promised us that the hotel has been warned to remove the security gate from where it is. It blocks the public right of way.


The new and improved hut close up


It is an improper erection. After a few years, the likelihood is that the hotel is going to claim that the road is no longer public, and that they have successfully defeated the public right to use it. A public right of way can be lost due to non use. The hotel should be obliged to remove the security hut and barrier to the area of Blue Restaurant. That is where the private villas of the hotel guests properly begin.


The central access to the beach is at the restaurant previously called “Georges” and now called “Blue Restaurant”. I do not remember ever seeing a sign indicating that there was public parking at the restaurant, or that the public had a right to use the beach.


For us locals, access to the centre of the Bay is out of the question. I have on occasion said to the security guard at the hut, “I am going to the beach”, pointing to the restaurant on the right, and been directed to go to the left and to use the public car park at the eastern end. I have got to the central access by saying that I was going to the restaurant. I still do not understand why I have to explain to the staff posted at the gate on the public roadway that I am going either to the beach or to the restaurant. There is no sign of a right of public access to the beach at Blues Restaurant. If there ever was, the recent expansion has obliterated all trace of it.

If any reader of this post has had no problem driving to Blue Restaurant to access the beach, consider whether you might have been driving a rental car or otherwise looked like a tourist rather than a local. That might have made a difference in your treatment by the security staff at the guard hut.


The western access is at the foot of Firefly Lane.


The entrance to Firefly lane


You drive down Firefly Lane towards the sea.


Firefly Lane


To get to the western end of the beach, you drive down to the service gate to the hotel.


The causeway across the pond to the western gate to Cap Juluca


Before the gate, you turn right, following the sandy road until it pierces the dune and gives way to the sea.


Public access to the west of the beach through the dune


I do not recall ever seeing any sign indicating either public parking or public access to the beach at the foot of this access to the western end of the beach. There is nothing blocking your access to the beach on this road. There is a security gate, but it is at the entrance to the hotel proper.


The western security gate to the hotel


One problem with this access is the hotel’s use of it, once you cross the causeway through the pond, to store derelict vehicles and equipment all along the length of the road on both sides of it. This road appears to be used by the hotel as a dump for old and damaged furniture and furnishings.



The western access road to the beach as you drive parallel with the dune


It is the most unsightly public beach access I have encountered anywhere in the West Indies.


Another view of the western access road to the beach


The unsightly dumped equipment also restricts the amount of parking that used to be available to the public.


Some of the derelict equipment alongside the western access road


This access is little used. You seldom see anyone enjoying the beach at this point. You can understand the reason why.


So that, in effect, the only sign at Maundays Bay indicating where the public may park is the public car park sign at the Pimms Restaurant end of the beach. There is no sign at all indicating that the public have the right to use the public beach.


I know the new owners have spent a fortune on renovating and improving the facilities for the enjoyment of their guests, and, hopefully, one day, to make a profit. They deserve all our cooperation and encouragement. But, that does not extend to giving up any one of the three public access to what is arguably one of the best beaches in Anguilla.


I do not blame the hotel for not putting up public access signs. That is the responsibility of the relevant government agency. I do not blame the hotel for not taking down the security hut. It makes their guests feel comfortable. It is entirely for the appropriate government agency to bring a prosecution for the obstruction of the public right. I don’t blame the public service for the lack of action. They await instructions from the political heads of their departments to commence action. I am sure they would be happy to act once directed to do so. But, it seems they are not going to get instructions. It appears that the gift of an ambulance coincided with the loss of will to enforce the Chief Minister’s demands that the public access to the beach be unimpeded. Was that all it took to persuade our leaders to look the other way as the public access roads to this beach have been silently and slowly eroded? Negligence, self-interest and compromise of the public interest are but some of the characteristics of an unprincipled government.


I feel sorry for the children. In a few years time they will not even know the rights their parents used to enjoy.



17 March, 2009

Suspension


A sad day for the British Overseas Territories. It is a sad day for all of us when the UK has to suspend the constitution of a British Overseas Territory such as Anguilla is. The Minister announced she was doing just that for the Turks and Caicos Islands in a written statement in Parliament yesterday. And, this modern constitution is barely two years old.




The Minister wrote in part:


I wish to inform the House that on 16 March 2009 the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) published the interim report of the Commissioner, the right hon. Sir Robin Auld (http://www.tci-inquiry.org/interim_report.html).

The Commissioner states that the written information obtained in the first six months of the Commission’s inquiries, when coupled with the evidence in the public hearings in TCI earlier this year, have provided information in abundance pointing to a high probability of systemic corruption or serious dishonesty. In his view this, together with “clear signs of political amorality and immaturity and of general administrative incompetence, have demonstrated a need for urgent suspension in whole or in part of the constitution and for other legislative and administrative reforms”, and change in other related matters.

In light of the accumulation of evidence in relation to TCI in the last year or so, and fortified by the Commissioner’s interim report, the Government have formed the view that parts of the constitution will need to be suspended and have decided to take steps to enable it to do so. I am today making available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website a draft Order in Council prepared by the FCO which would suspend parts of the constitution, including those relating to ministerial Government and the House of Assembly, initially for two years, although this period could be extended or shortened. The draft order will be submitted to Her Majesty in Council at a meeting on 18 March. If made, the order will be laid before Parliament on 25 March. Unless the Commissioner’s final report significantly changes our current assessment of the situation, the order will be brought into force after the final report is received. However, the order could be brought into force sooner if circumstances arose in the territory prior to that date which justified suspending relevant parts of the constitution. This intervention is for an interim period only.

We in Anguilla have to be thankful that there is no evidence here of the sort of widespread corruption that Sir Robin Auld uncovered in TCI. The principal difference between our two countries is that in Anguilla government has little or no Crown land to dispose of at personal profit to Ministers. In TCI, by comparison, most of the territory appears to have been made up of Crown land. They ploughed fertile furrows through the islands. The transcript of the evidence taken reveals the multitude of devices TCI politicians used to make money from dealing in the public’s land. Who knows where we in Anguilla would be today if we too had had large tracts of Crown land waiting to be disposed of?


What is it, by comparison, if our Ministers occasionally overrule the Planning Department and permit a favoured individual to build a restaurant or a beach bar on the public beach? They overrule the Planning Department for favourites in much more fundamental ways every week. They call it “being sensitive to the needs of the poor Anguillians”, and they get away with it in the eyes of trusting and gullible Anguillians.


What if the Minister is charmed by the young, attractive Dominicana into writing a personal letter addressed to one of the more vulnerable restaurateurs on the island, requesting him to give her a job without the work permit she so obviously requires? That is the Minister being sympathetic to the needs of poor Anguillians, isn’t it? Although, as one restaurant owner complained to me, “Why is it he never sends me young men, only young girls?” Anyway, as one Immigration official told me, “We stopped him doing that.”


What if the Ministers pad out the Boards of statutory corporations with political supporters and hangers on? They all need a job, don’t they? This is being sensitive to the needs of poor Anguillians. As if turning the Board of the Health Authority of Anguilla into a virtual sub-committee of the local Masonic Lodge is somehow a shining example of transparency and accountability! In my opinion, it is exactly the opposite to being sensitive to the needs of poor Anguillians.


So what if there is no binding Code of Conduct for Ministers. They had one in the TCI, and, as it was purely voluntary, it did not help one bit.


So what if we in Anguilla have no Integrity Commission. They had one in the TCI, and, as it had no teeth, it did not help one bit.


So what if the Chief Auditor has given our public accounts a failing grade year after year? Not even the Opposition in the House of Assembly has ever asked a single question about the misspending revealed.


Inappropriate interference in and by-passing of statutory regulatory bodies has, over the years, become the norm. The granting of exemptions, waivers and discounts in the areas of aliens landholding licence fees, customs duties, Environmental Impact Assessments, permanent residence certificates, and belongerships, are counted by all politicians in Anguilla as essential perquisites of power. The unconstrained freedom, without reference to any principle or policy, to decide when to grant and when to revoke work permits, licences, public works contracts, and franchises and monopoly concessions, adds the icing to the cake. As my Dominican friend likes to tell me, “In Anguilla, once you have the right godfather, you can do anything.”


No party when in opposition wants to change the political culture. They only want to be the ones enjoying the privileges and perks of power. No one cares that all this is equally evidence of our political amorality and immaturity, and of our general administrative incompetence.


So long as our people permit our leaders to continue to exercise power over us, with no checks or balances other than the vote every five years, things can only go from bad to worse.



15 March, 2009

Meads Bay



Meads Bay is a public beach that the public previously accessed in several spots. It has only one public access now.



That is the road through the Malliouhana Hotel property, by the tamarind tree at the east end of the beach. If it is filled with cars, you could try parking on the narrow main road and walking through it to the beach. In effect, the entire western end of the beach is now inaccessible to the public.


There used to be another access road for the public. It will be familiar to all who know the old Coccolloba Hotel as the road to the dolphin prison. It ran over what is now the Viceroy project, to the east of the main entrance. It used to give public access to the beach at Meads Bay until a couple of weeks ago.



You can drive down it now part of the way. It ends now at a villa being built across what used to be the beach access.



A security guard in a little hut blocked my way to the villa under construction. “What happened to the road that led to the beach?” I asked her. “It private now”, she replied.



Whatever happened to the promise made in the MOU that they would provide public access to both Meads Bay and to Barns Bay? Is there no authority in Anguilla watching out to protect public rights of way and public access to the beaches of the western half of Anguilla?


All the other accesses to the beach have been blocked off to the public.


I suppose we can always try parking in one of the hotel or restaurant car parks and pushing our way through to the beach. Is that what the right of public enjoyment of the beaches of Anguilla has come to?


I feel sorry for the children. They will never enjoy the rights we once did.


12 March, 2009

Flag Golf


Watering resumes at Flag Golf Course. We in Anguilla have been worrying ourselves sick about what is going to happen with the abandoned golf course at Flag. We are now in the middle of the dry season. The rains stopped in January. The public utility company, Anglec, cut off electricity about that time. The desalinization plant ceased operations. The grass on the golf course has not been watered since then. Needless to say, the grass has been turning brown. The following photographs taken a couple of days ago illustrate the extent of the problem at this present time.




Note the exceptionally low water level in the ponds. Is that grass I see growing in the sand traps? Note also the colour of the grass on the fairway.


I gather from the Chief Minister’s Tuesday morning press conference that he has managed to persuade Anglec to turn back on the electricity to Flag, even though Anglec has not been paid for several months of consumption. He asserts that the water has begun again to flow at the golf course. I assume this to mean that the desalinization plant has been turned back on once again. Does that mean the golf course workers, or some of them, are being paid once again to operate the system?


I only hope the grass is not completely dead.



09 March, 2009

Fort School


Do we need increased security at the Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School? I have just finished reading an article on education by Rowenna Davis. She writes in the The Independent newspaper. Her 5 March article is about whether the British need more security in their public schools. Now, I am just a part-time teacher in Anguilla’s one comprehensive school. I am not a professional educator. The article left me with more questions than answers. Still, I took away from it the idea that it is somehow relevant to the ways we might improve conditions in our school.


We know the reputation of our students. The boys are supposedly all knife-carrying, foul mouthed, truants. The girls spend all their time fighting and pulling each other’s hair out. The boys dress like prisoners on day pass, knifing each other for no reason at all. I must be very lucky. Mine are different. They are all well-behaved, bright and intelligent young people, full of promise. Some of them appear to have missed out on a good basic education, but that would be the fault of the system rather than anything inherently wrong with them.


So, the question becomes, will they learn better if we introduce increased security measures? Do we need more police presence in the school yard? Do we need CCTV cameras, electronic gated fences, more screening wands and arches, and new powers to stop and search students without consent? The question is not whether we all need security. The real question is how to achieve it. Will draconian measures actually increase security and comfort, or will they destroy our sense of community and undermine security? What happens when we destroy the trust that is necessary to build community? The risk is that too much security may send the wrong signal. It may suggest that the place is more dangerous than it really is.


Supervision, dialogue, and counseling are not synonymous with security, but they are essential adjuncts to a child’s education. I do not know about the other teachers, but I find it odd that during break periods there are no adults whose job it is to walk around the grounds, corridors and supposedly empty classrooms observing, and where necessary, correcting the behaviour of the children. I do not consider it normal or acceptable that hundreds of children are left to mill around the school yard unsupervised for hours at a time. Yet, that is what actually happens at school, day after day, week after week. When I enquired about the defect, as I saw it, I was assured that a secondary school is different from a primary school. In a secondary school, the children do not have to be monitored continuously. Really?


When fourteen and fifteen year olds engage in unprotected sexual activity in an unused class room, that does not mean they are depraved. It suggests to me that there is inadequate supervision and poor sex education. Would the children have participated if there was the slightest chance that an adult was likely at any moment to enter the room? Probably not. Would they have participated if they knew that if one of them had herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis or HIV the other was likely to get infected? Probably not.


Bad behaviour is a learned activity. Good behaviour is equally learned. When children are taught the facts, they have little difficulty changing their behaviour. The statistics show that carrying a knife increases your chance of getting stabbed. Arresting children who bring weapons into the school is not a long-term solution. Education about the dangers of carrying weapons is. So, is our Ministry of Education even considering a Be Safe programme? Is any thought being given to recruiting willing members of the PTA for training as volunteer assistants in the supervision of large numbers of children?


As Ms Davis points out, pupils do not just learn from what they are taught in the classroom. They also learn from how their school functions as an institution. Fitting out the school with more security guards, wands, and handcuffs may only succeed in teaching them that criminal behaviour is something normal that we just have to live with. Instead, we ought to be teaching them that it is something unacceptable that is to be challenged. Improving security through community dialogue and action to address the root causes of crime won’t just make us safer, it will be a better lesson for the kids to learn.


Does it have to take an aggrieved parent suing the authorities for negligence, and proving that inadequate supervision was one of the immediate causes of injury to her child, to make everyone wake up?


Are we going to make an effort to talk our children out of bad behaviour?