Each year, between US $1.5 to $2 trillion is lost from the global economy in bribes, not counting forgone tax revenues and economic growth. Africa alone is drained of US $50 billion annually due to illicit financial flows, of which corruption is a major component.
Recently, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland warned of a ‘global tsunami’ of corruption, demanding a coordinated international response.
In her words: “Corruption is poisonous, corrosive, vicious and an enemy of sustainable development. It destroys people’s confidence in their leaders, their politicians and their country.”
On the heels of the 8th Commonwealth Conference of Heads of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Abuja, Nigeria a week ago, the Commonwealth Caribbean Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies is gearing up for its annual summit on 4-5 June in Turks and Caicos.
Anti-graft agency heads from the region will focus on the theme: ‘Counting the real cost of corruption – engaging everyone in the fight.’
“We understand that in order to battle corruption, everyone needs to get involved. We need to educate the public about the detrimental impact of this scourge and to let them know how they can report corruption and fraud crimes and also to be reassured that they will be protected when they do,” stressed the Secretary General leading up to the event.
Currently, five Caribbean countries – the Bahamas, Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and St. Lucia – rank amongst the 50 least corrupt countries in the world (out of 180), according to Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Others have reported positive changes, such as new transparent mechanisms for public procurement installed in Guyana, and a consolidated anti-corruption agency to conduct investigations in Jamaica.
In a tough terrain, the Commonwealth Caribbean Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies seeks to broker the exchange of ideas and good practices amongst members.
Set up in 2015, the association leverages the convening power of the Commonwealth to sustain a network, offering learning and support through South-South collaboration.
“In 2015 we created a strong network for integrity commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies in the Caribbean,” said Dr Roger Koranteng, head of the Commonwealth’s Public Sector Governance Unit. “Since then, we have seen a clear strengthening of these institutions as a result of the collaboration this network has encouraged and facilitated.”
Meeting in Grenada (2015), Trinidad & Tobago (2016) and Jamaica (2017), the group has been able to select countries for benchmarking, conduct training and gain from peer learning.
For instance, Jamaica’s Office of the Contractor General offered capacity building support to the Grenada Integrity Commission on procurement procedures, monitoring and investigation of government contracts. Grenada also supplied training centre facilities for the Commonwealth to deliver key capacity building programmes for agencies in the region.
Looking forward, Dr Koranteng urged anti-graft bodies to intensify public education, citizens’ engagement, surveys and data gathering. Deeper mobilisation of children, youth, and civil society organisations will be critical in the fight against corruption across the region.