The hefty cost of corruption

There was a time, just a matter of years ago, when the average Barbadian would have scoffed at any suggestion that corruption was a major problem affecting this country’s public administration. Such was the level of confidence in the integrity of persons holding positions of public trust either by virtue of elected office or Civil Service appointment.

The average Barbadian regarded corruption as more of an issue for some of our Caribbean neighbours who, at various times, had made the headlines because of high-profile scandals. These involved officials who had either accepted bribes or misappropriated public funds for personal benefit.

Of course, as part of the cut and thrust of local partisan politics, politicians occasionally would accuse opponents of engaging in corrupt practices, especially at election time, but convincing evidence was hardly ever offered to substantiate the claims. Such allegations may have swayed some voters but they have never resulted in any high profile person being charged and prosecuted.

It seems finally that the myth of Barbados as largely corruption-free has been shattered. Recent observations by two prominent citizens – former Chief Justice Sir David Simmons and Private Sector Association chairman Charles Herbert – have brought the issue to the forefront of national debate in a rather unprecedented way.

Appearing as a guest on the VOB’s Brass Tacks talk show, Sir David, a former Attorney General, remarked that there was a high level of corruption in Barbadian society, mostly in transactions between the private and public sectors, but the country has been in denial for years.

“More and more we are having evidence that there is probably a genuine increase in the incidence of corrupt practices both at the private sector and the public sector levels,” he said, noting that “the bribers are usually the people in the private sector” and the recipients in the public sector.

Whilst making it clear that he did not have any evidence that business people were bribing public officials, Herbert said the difficulty getting things done in Barbados – namely approvals related to doing business – created an opportunities for corruption. “What I would say is when there is an ease of doing business, bribes go away, because you don’t need a bribe to get something done quickly,” he posited in an interview with this newspaper.

Corruption, which is the abuse of public office for private gain, is not an issue to be taken lightly. Its implications are profound and wide-ranging. It has destroyed many a country because it undermines confidence and jeopardizes the opportunity for economic growth, development and prosperity.

If there is corruption in Barbados, it needs to be tackled resolutely. The incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP), currently into its eighth year at the helm of Government, took office in the 2008 general election on an anti-corruption platform. It gave specific commitments to the people of Barbados to improve governance, thereby eliminating opportunities for corruption. To date, it has not delivered on these promises.

Adopting a model of governance where the emphasis is on transparency can go a long way towards tackling corruption. A checklist of reforms, drawn up by the World Bank, includes the following: public disclosure of assets and incomes of candidates running for public office, public officials, politicians, legislators, judges, and their dependents; public disclosure of political campaign contributions by individuals and firms, and of campaign expenditures;public disclosure of all parliamentary votes, draft legislation, and parliamentary debates; effective implementation of conflict of interest laws, separating business, politics, legislation, and public service, and adoption of a law governing lobbying; publicly blacklisting firms that have been shown to bribe in public procurement (as done by the World Bank); and “publish-what-you-pay” by multinationals working in extractive industries; effective implementation of freedom of information laws, with easy access for all to government information; freedom of the media (including the Internet); disclosure of the actual ownership structure and financial status of domestic banks; transparent (web-based) competitive procurement; Interestingly, the tables have been reversed and the incumbent DLP is now the target of corruption allegations, in much the same way that it accused the former Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration prior to and during the 2008 election campaign. It is about time, in the national interest and its own credibility, that the DLP delivers on its anti-corruption pledges as just about a year and a half remain before the expiry of its mandate.

If the DLP fails to deliver before the next general election is called, it runs a great risk, in the estimation of the general public which has become quite suspicious of politicians, of being placed in the same category as the boy who cried wolf in the Aesop fable. Now that, to say the least, would be most unfortunate.

6 Responses to The hefty cost of corruption

  1. Lilian Lloyd
    Lilian Lloyd August 27, 2016 at 12:10 am


  2. Tony Webster August 27, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Hmmm you seem to know of what you speak, dear Ed. However, my own Jerusalem moment, came when a fellow-Bajan banker returned home after a stint at Barclays Bank of Nigeria. I asked him of his experience, including how his take on post-independence Nigeria, which was yet now wallowing opinion petro-dollars, and if he found corruption as bad as was alledged?

    His answer was easily understood: he said, ” it’s unbelievable! After the counter clerk at the ( British) airline would not even acknowledge me before “something”…was discreetly passed…my manager told me to let the messenger or driver buy/ negotiate everything I needed” . I must have looked incredulous, so my friend added for good measure…” Tony, it’s politely called “dash ” …and there is even an official allowance, to be claimed as an approved deduction on your income tax return”.
    This was, dear folks, years before Nigeria received the tsunami of petro-dollars. Still wonder why oil-wealth is oft called a curse, and why the better Nigerian exponents of this art-form ,nowadays tally their take not in millions, but billions?

    When rats take up residence, it’s very difficult to get them to re-locate.

  3. Sheron Inniss August 27, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Yardfowlism is a form of corruption – this includes statutory boards, commissions and the list goes on. Both of them – b and d; six is half dozen and half dozen is six.

  4. Zeus August 28, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    BT you wrote about the present government facing corruption allegations can you please let the reading public know of these allegations

  5. Tony Webster August 29, 2016 at 8:40 am

    “Mout’ open, an’ truth jump out”. Now, all we have to do, is to switch on brains…take finger out of nether region…pass the F.O.I. Act; ditto the Integrity in Public Life Act; and amend the current slander/ libel Act which constrains our journalists and media. Unless we can slay this monster, we condemn our future generations to mediocrity, and misery. We ALL pay, as individuals, to feed this monster , a few cents or dollars each time we buy anything! Unless we slay the beast, we ALL will continue to suffer…both as a nation, and as individuals.

  6. D.i Howel LL.B, LL.M, PhD September 6, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    why is that we always have to refer to what the “World Bank”…or IMF…or “some other foreign entity” wants Caribbean governments to? What are we?…a bunch of numskulls that cannot figure things out. It does not require degrees in rocket science to put in place reforms needed to combat corruption….starting with arresting, trying and sentencing the guilty thieves to years of imprisonment. Like the Chinese system: “Bring your own bullet” We make “impotent nincompoops” out of ourselves and then we cry “I am being abused” Man has the power of the VOTE. Use it! …and keep using it until government officials get the message! Next case!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *