KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica Minister of Finance and the Public Service Audley Shaw has asked the World Bank to conduct a diagnostic study on corruption in Jamaica as part of the Government’s strategy to tackle the high levels of dishonesty and fraudulent practices in the country.
Mr. Shaw made the request during a meeting with several top officials at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank, held in Washington, D.C., on the weekend.
Speaking with The Gleaner yesterday from the United States capital, the Finance Minister said it was an opportune time for such a study to be done, as it comes as part of the new Government’s policy to practise strong fiscal management and the reduction of waste and corruption.
“We feel it’s important, as a bench-mark, for a new government, set against a background of persistent reports of corruption in this country, and especially since the World Bank is willing to do it and do it at their expense,” he said.
The study, according to the minister, will focus on several aspects of corruption, particularly within government agencies.
He said his decision to approach the international organisation was based on the notion that it was necessary to have an independent party conduct the study.
“In the interest of absolute transparency, it is better that it is done by an independent external party, like the World Bank,” he told The Gleaner.
According to Mr. Shaw, he had previously raised the issue in Parliament some four years ago with the then government, but his request was ignored.
“I had stated to the then government that the World Bank has a programme where they would come and carry out a diagnostic study on corruption.
“I said to the then Minister of Finance that it cannot be triggered unless it is requested by the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance, however they did not request it,” he said.
“Bear in mind that each year since that time, Transparency International among other institutions have consistently been ranking Jamaica in unfavourable terms, in regards to our corruption index,” the minister added.
Just last month, it was reported, according to the latest Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, that Jamaica has fallen some 23 places in its latest report, indicating that the country has become even more corrupt since its 2006 report.
“We feel therefore it is an opportune time, now that we are talking to the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank about ways of having them work with us in terms of our liability management programmes,” said Mr. Shaw.
He further said this is critical as a high level of corruption is a clear indication that there is also an increased level of revenue leakage.
“When we do a diagnostic on corruption we will be able to plug some of the holes where there is revenue loss.
“It then means that we’ll be able to protect the revenue and to generate more resources with which to use to run the country properly,” he reasoned.
He said the World Bank is not only willing to conduct the study but is also prepared to make recommendations for the implementation of a framework for corrective action against corruption.
The Gleaner was unable to contact Omar Davies, opposition spokesperson on finance and other senior opposition spokesmen at press time.
Minister Shaw and his team, which includes, Senator Don Wehby, Minister Without Portfolio in the ministry of finance is scheduled to return to the island tomorrow.