Political scientists, the Integrity Group and the Private Sector have urged the Senate to pass the Integrity in Public Life Bill (2023) without delay. They claim that it is in our national interest. If these groups are politically compromised, then passing the Bill may not be in the public’s interest.
We are told that Barbados’ reputation depends on it being passed since only two countries in this world do not have Integrity legislation, Barbados and Syria. We seem to have forgotten that Transparency International annually ranks the most corrupt countries. Every year, all but one of the top 10 most corrupt countries have integrity legislation – which is clearly ineffective.
Our Integrity in Public Life Bill (2023) is ineffective, and much worse than the 2018 version – which was beyond terrible. After we objected to such a blatant attempt at making corruption legal in Barbados, the 2018 Bill went to the Select Committee for improvement where we presented our concerns.
There now seems to be a public relations campaign to distract the public from the ineffectiveness of the 2023 Bill, with the claim that current judges are not captured in the Bill. Whether judges are captured in the Bill or not will not prevent the legalisation of corruption allowed in the 2023 Bill.
Section 32.4 of the Integrity in Public Life Bill (2023) notes that once a person has retired from public life for five years, then he cannot be investigated for corruption. In the 2018 Bill, that time was two years. The Attorney General saw two years as a tight deadline to force the public service to investigate quickly. We saw it as a glaring loophole for legalising corruption in Barbados.
In the private sector, it can take over a decade for evidence of corruption to be uncovered by responsible junior staff, who will, by that time, be senior enough to access sensitive information in the company’s files.
In the public sector, the Auditor General may not get around to doing special audits of questionable projects until after 5 years have elapsed. The report is then written in year six, and laid in Parliament in year seven. Therefore, the five year limit only serves to legalise any corruption that took place during that time. If a time limit must be placed, then it should be a minimum of 15 years.
BUSINESS AS USUAL.
The 2018 version of the Bill described the acts of corruption and bribery in sections 51 to 53. But the fines for being convicted of corruption and bribery were not deterrents – $10,000 to $20,000. We recommended that such fines be increased to $500,000.
To signal to those paying and receiving bribes that it will be business as usual in Barbados, and that they will be protected, the 2023 Bill deleted all definitions and fines for corruption and bribery that were in the 2018 Bill. The 2023 Bill then increased the fines for leaking and receiving confidential information from the Commission – from $5,000 to $100,000.
A bad Integrity bill passed solely for public relations purposes is not better than having no Integrity law at all. Barbados’ choice is simple. Either have no law and keep corruption illegal, or pass an Integrity law that will definitely make corruption and bribery legal.