Preventing Corruption in Barbados

The recently defeated Integrity in Public Life Bill (Integrity Bill) will not trouble the scores. Despite the fake Oscar-contention outrage of our senators, if the bill had passed, it would simply have made corruption legal in Barbados. That is how terrible the bill was designed.

At first, the bill specified that a person could not be investigated for corruption after they had retired from public life for 2 years. So, a person who received a bribe in January 2018 and then retired, cannot be investigated after February 2020.

A sloppy bribe may be uncovered by a financial audit, but the 2018 accounts are audited in 2019. The earliest the Auditor General will look at the 2019 audited accounts is in 2020, after the fellow has retired. How convenient. Perhaps the time has come to ask our politicians and senators, why they would champion such a farce.

After Solutions Barbados explained the farce, the final Bill increased the time where no investigations can happen, to 5 years. That is also useless in Barbados, since the Auditor General provides his annual report of many issues that are more than five years old. A short limit on investigating corruption is a glaring loophole for guilty persons.

The Integrity Bill will likely cost taxpayers $5M each year, to recover less than $50,000. It is a farce. It conveniently ignores the estimated $100M of corrupting no-bid contracts each year. The Integrity Bill is wasteful, ineffective, and practically useless for Barbados. Consider the following scenario.

CORRUPTION 101.

A company bribes a person to get a no-bid contract. The company charges the Government five times the normal value of the work, which Barbadians must pay in higher taxes (that is why most Barbadians live hand-to-mouth). The bribe may be paid in any of the following ways.

1. Paying his election advertising expenses.

2. Building a house, and transferring ownership five years after he retires.

3. Purchasing land, and transferring ownership five years after he retires.

4. Purchasing financial instruments that mature five years after he retires.

5. Funding community projects in his constituency.

6. Paying money to his friends.
7. Selling him property (eg. car, house, etc) at a significant discount.

8. Paying for the renovation of his house.

9. Paying his children’s educational costs.

10. Hiring consultants and employees whom he recommends.

11. Hiring him as a consultant five years after he retires.

12. Procuring and managing a business (eg restaurant or store), and transferring ownership to his family five years after he retires.

There are hundreds of similar ways of paying and receiving bribes. Our useless Integrity Bill is conveniently designed to avoid all of them. Worse, the Integrity bill does not address any of the common methods of political corruption.

POLITICAL CORRUPTION.

Forcing the public to make payments to consultants that only benefit one political party, is political corruption. The payments are normally made to political supporters, who may be disguised as: public relations, media, information technology, security, or financial advisors.

Solutions Barbados recommended an effective anti-corruption policy. It is based on the proven method of rewarding whistle-blowers, as an incentive to blow the whistle. We planned to reward them with the total value of the bribe. We also planned to fine both the bribe givers and the bribe takers, to pay for the policy.

The whistle-blowers already know about the corrupt activities. They include: tellers who did the bank transactions, contractors who renovated the houses, lawyers who drafted the contracts, accountants who did the audits, and vendors who sold the properties. Employees of the department that gave the no-bid contract, and the company that paid the bribe, also know.

The Government is planning to pass a whistle-blower protection bill, but there is no reward incentive. Instead, the exposed whistle-blower gets to keep working in the now toxic work environment, until it takes its foreseen emotional health toll. What a farce of an incentive.

It is time for our politicians and senators to stop giving us false hopes. If they do not plan to reward whistle-blowers, and abolish corrupting no-bid contracts, then at least be honest with Barbadians. Passing an ineffective Integrity Bill is not in the public’s best interest. However, it is good political advice, that benefits only one political party.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

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