Caribbean anti-corruption agencies have unanimously agreed on the need for robust legislation to investigate and prosecute corruption in the region.
Heads of anti-corruption agencies in the Commonwealth Caribbean issued a statement after their fifth annual meeting in the Cayman Islands. It includes a collective commitment on actions to strengthen regional cooperation and help member countries address the gaps in fighting corruption. It encourages the Commonwealth to conduct research on quantifying the real cost of corruption.
Secretary-General Patricia Scotland opened the meeting of the Commonwealth Caribbean heads of anti-corruption agencies.
She said: “By impairing the ability of governments to collect tax fairly and efficiently, corruption diverts resources away from the vitally important investments that need to be made in areas such as health, education, and renewable energy.”
To tackle this “corrosive cancer”, the Secretary-General outlined how the Commonwealth adopts a three-pronged approach which focuses on research, capacity-building and networking.
Participants stressed the need for regional and national anti-corruption bodies to maintain their independence, impartiality and professionalism in order to enhance their effectiveness. They also called for there to be an anti-corruption event on the margins of the 2020 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
Priority areas, as agreed at the meeting, cover capacity-building, resource management, knowledge sharing, code of conduct and law enforcement. The statement also underlines the need to create standard operating procedures to investigate acts of corruption across the region.
The Commonwealth has established regional networks of agencies responsible for fighting corruption in their countries. These promote collaboration in a variety of areas, including sharing of evidence and closing transnational loopholes.
Following the meeting, the head of the Commonwealth’s public sector governance unit, Dr Roger Koranteng, said: “Establishing effective regional anti-corruption networks is a prerequisite for the success of national strategies to prevent and combat corruption.
“Coordination mechanisms for the networks should facilitate and nurture the competency of national agencies to coordinate the actions of all who are engaged at national level to elaborate and implement anti-corruption policies and monitor their implementation.”
The statement recognises the threat posed by corruption to young people, and recommends member countries should enforce stronger laws to build their confidence in measures to uphold integrity.
Rosie Whittaker-Myles, chairperson of the Commission for Standards in Public Life in Cayman Islands said: “The only way to succeed in this fight is to strengthen our own ethical resolve; to lobby our respective governments for the resources and laws needed to carry out our mandate and to have a support unit – such as the Commonwealth - on which we can rely for assistance and guidance when needed.”
The meeting was hosted by the Commonwealth in collaboration with the Cayman Island’s Commission and the Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies in the Caribbean. Participants agreed the next meeting will be held in St. Lucia. They also elected new members of the executive committee who will serve the Association from 2019 to 2020.