Munroe wants auditor general to refer breaches for prosecution

Munroe wants auditor general to refer breaches for prosecution

Monday, February 18, 2019

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Head of anti-corruption watchdog group, National Integrity Action (NIA) Professor Trevor Munroe is suggesting that the auditor general (AG) be given the authority to refer breaches of the Public Bodies Management Act for prosecution.He was speaking at the Ministry of Justice’s quarterly press briefing last week, against the backdrop of the corruption scandal which continues to haunt the State oil refinery, Petrojam.

“The Public Bodies Management Accountability Act gives the AG the right to refer breaches of responsible officer in public entities to the courts to be sanctioned (but) I believe the Parliament ought to look at an amendment to give the auditor general that right as well, not just the attorney general.”

Professor Munroe also raised concern that in the outline of the legislative agenda for this year, there was no mention of the regulations to the Procurement Act, a key piece of legislation in the fight against corruption in the public sector.

“I’m glad that in the GG’s speech he mentioned that the MOCA regulations are going to be completed — I believe, however, that this matter is of considerable urgency because what Petrojam revealed over the last 10 years is repeated malfunctions in respect of procurement with no consequences. Why should any new board (or) senior manager put themselves through the trouble of obeying procurement rules if they know that breaching them have no consequences,” he argued. Professor Munroe pointed out that prior to the December 2018 report of the auditor general on Petrojam, a previous probe carried out in 2007 had also pointed to breaches, but these had not been addressed.

He said that there are several pieces of legislation, which if reformed and applied would prevent a recurrence of situations such as those which have been uncovered at Petrojam.

Professor Munroe is also calling for the Protected Disclosures Act to be amended to provide protection for employees of public bodies who witness acts of corruption by senior employees, thereby enabling them to report these activities without fear of being harmed.

“That recommendation has been made by the peer review group looking at Jamaica’s compliance with the Inter-American corruption against corruption, in March 2018 — our programme, by the way, has been one of the most successful,” he stated.

He further stressed that illicit enrichment must also be targeted in tandem with other anti-corruption efforts. “There must be something wrong which we need to make right…in 2017 — 1844 cases of corruption were brought before the parish courts. There were 519 convictions. Illicit enrichment, which is the offence of the big people — assets and a style of life inconsistent with your known reasonable legal sources of income — in five years (there was) somewhere in the region of five convictions.

Professor Munroe said it is due to this kind of imbalance that he is of the view Government should consider measures which Britain has introduced to expose ill-gotten wealth, using the unexplained wealth order.

He said this would allow financial investigative bodies such as the Financial Investigations Division, MOCA, and the Revenue Protection Division to apply to the court for an unexplained wealth order to investigate in instances, for example, where there is sufficient information that the developer of a large housing complex, does not have any known legitimate resources to possess that level of wealth.

“It has been used with effect in the United Kingdom — we should think about it,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Professor Munroe said the NIA will be ramping up collaboration with the Ministry of Justice in a number of areas to help strengthen the justice system.

These include training for more than 1,000 justices of the peace, and 3,000 restorative justice practitioners, mainly in schools. The NIA will also launch advertisements to build awareness about alternative dispute resolution.

Professor Munroe noted that the group will also continue to push for greater legislative reform to enhance the justice system.

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