10 December, 2006

Int. Anti-Corruption Day 2006

Welcome to this site. It is dedicated to a discussion on corruption-related issues as they apply to the tiny Caribbean British Overseas Territory of Anguilla.

The need for such a site is based on the perception that there is much discussion in hushed tones about corruption. No one discusses the matter publicly. The press is silent. The radio is muffled. Public discourse is discouraged. Let there be a free discussion here. All contributions are welcome. Needless to say, the editor of this site reserves the right to delete or edit any comment that appears to be unfair.

The following article, taken from Caribbean Net News on 10 December 2006, is as good a start as any for this site. It provides a setting for the discussion to begin. The article was written by Indra Jeet Mistry.


International Anti-corruption Day - Time for Caribbean governments to seize the initiative

Saturday, December 9, 2006

by Indra Jeet Mistry, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

Last year, the United Nations Convention against Corruption became the first legally binding, global anti-corruption agreement, marking an historic milestone in the fight against corruption. One year on, with 9 December being celebrated as International Anti-corruption day, in the Caribbean, only Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua and Barbuda can count themselves as signatories to the Convention.

This is despite the fact that corruption remains rife across the region and has had the debilitating effect of eating into the economic prosperity, democratic development and civil society’s trust in government. Endemic corruption in the Caribbean was recently reflected in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index. Of the Caribbean countries surveyed, Jamaica was viewed as the least corrupt but was placed at only 66, while Guyana’s performance was especially poor, coming in at 121 out of a potential 163.

The Convention for the first time provides a single, overarching means for all countries in the region to fight and remove the scourge of corruption that has for long hampered their development. More specifically, chapter two of the Convention provides different measures that a country should implement to help stop the rot of corruption and remove the fog of secrecy that often clouds government operations and decision-making processes.

One means by which Caribbean countries can go a long way to battling corruption is by adopting and implementing an effective right to information law, which would also underpin many of the other measures set out in the Convention. Indeed, there have been some positive signs that Caribbean countries are beginning to understand the benefits of adopting an RTI law with Jamaica recently celebrated two years of implementing its Access to Information Act, while Antigua and Barbuda and Trinidad and Tobago also operate their own laws. Freedom of information (FOI) Bills are in the process of being drafted in Guyana and the Cayman Islands, while Bermuda has also announced its willingness to implement a law.

The right to information, or freedom of information as it is more commonly known, has long been recognised as a foundational human right, ever since the UN General Assembly declared in 1946 that “freedom of information is a fundamental human right and a touchstone of all freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated.” Since then, the Organisation of American States and the Commonwealth - of which many Caribbean states are members - have also endorsed minimum standards on the right to information. More countries in the region now need to recognise this fundamental right and also realise the benefits that implementing such a law can bring, particularly in regard to cracking down on corruption.

An effective right to information law puts an obligation on the government to regularly disclose as much information as possible about its policies and decisions to the public, and provide information to individuals on request. Disclosing information should be subject to an overriding principle that all information should be disclosed, unless the harm caused by disclosure is greater than the public interest in accessing the information. The information should be accessible in a user-friendly, cheap, quick and simple way and the government should be required to conduct ongoing training for government officials and educate the public on the right to information.

The right to information acts as an important tool in fighting corruption because it can effectively transform the strong and traditional culture of secrecy within government into one of transparency and openness. In the Caribbean, politicians and government officials have for too long taken advantage of this culture of secrecy, where the local media often reports on the numerous ways in which officials have lined their own pockets with public funds. The adoption of a right to information law can shed light on the behaviour of government officials by empowering citizens with a tool to help scrutinise and monitor government decision-making and bring public officials and politicians to account.

Empowering citizens in this manner can also help strengthen democracy by making government directly accountable to its citizens on a day-to-day basis rather than just at election time. Even at election time, a right to information law ensures that voters have better access to information concerning the government’s record in office, allowing them to make a more informed decision at the ballot box, instead of relying on often dubious political propaganda.

An effective right to information law also helps to ensure that governments formulate and implement development projects in a responsible, transparent and participatory manner. Development projects often significantly suffer as a result of funds being siphoned off, resulting in severe delay, and sometimes even a failure to complete projects. With a right to information law in place, governments would be obliged to share information on such projects with the public who can then monitor their development. In fact, the right to information would give the public a voice in determining what local projects should take place in the first place and how these can be designed to more effectively improve their lives.

In sum, if governments in the Caribbean are serious about cracking down on corruption and securing the long term democratic development and economic prosperity for their citizens, now is the time for them to seize the initiative and sign up to the Convention and prioritise the drawing up and implementation of an effective right to information law.


  1. Transparency International's

    2006 Corruption Perceptions Index

    whilst covering most of the countries in the world, does not include Anguilla (yet).

    Where would you rate Anguilla in this global or regional league table ?

    Better than Haiti, the most corrupt ?

    Not as good as Canada, the global leader or Jamaica the regional one ?

  2. Those persons interested in the whole question of political corruption may like to join one of the Yahoo! Groups discussions found at http://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=A0geuuanqYBFtSIBCttXNyoA?p=political+corruption&prssweb=Search&ei=UTF-8&fr=ush-groups&x=wrt

  3. This is the best definition of political corruption I have seen [taken from a Yahoo!Groups page]:

    political corruption occurs when the person in office stops doing what the people want, and starts pursuing his own agenda. If he is bought off by interest groups and votes their way because they donated a bunch of money to his campaign. I wish that they could take no money from anyone because usually the money is given with a price tag. I think that there are a lot of corrupt law makers out there running our country and it is sad that the few who remain true eventually get drug down by all the dirty dealings in the capital. I think many start off wanting to save the world and make it a better place but with time they lose their idealism and what it was that motivated them in the first place. I personally think that less government and more self rule and we would see a better society. We need to have our free agency and most of what government does is take that away.

  4. Here is the Wikipedia definition:

    In broad terms, political corruption is the misuse by government officials of their governmental powers for illegitimate, usually secret, private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, like repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption.

    All forms of government are susceptible to political corruption. Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement. While corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and trafficking, it is not restricted to these organized crime activities. In some nations corruption is so common that it is expected when ordinary businesses or citizens interact with government officials. The end-point of political corruption is a kleptocracy, literally "rule by thieves".

    What constitutes illegal corruption differs depending on the country or jurisdiction. Certain political funding practices that are legal in one place may be illegal in another. In some countries, government officials have broad or not well defined powers, and the line between what is legal and illegal can be difficult to draw.


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