President of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Warren Smith says the current COVID-19 pandemic has put into focus the thorny and constantly evolving nature of corruption, and how it can reverse development gains in the region.
“António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, reminded us that corruption thrives in times of crisis. We must, therefore, maintain our vigilance as COVID-19 responses open new avenues for exploiting weak oversight systems,” Smith said at the inaugural two-day Caribbean Conference on Corruption, Compliance, and Cybercrime hosted by the CDB and the World Bank.
Smith told the conference corruption was “an age-old problem” with “a remarkable capacity for reinvention” noting it was critical for financial institutions like the CDB to employ diverse strategies to stay ahead of those who seek to “circumvent systems and processes.”
He said the virtual conference was one such strategy by the CDB and among the topics to be discussed during the two day event included “not typically addressed under the rubric of corruption” such as the roles of women, youth and media.
He said this was because the Bank believes in a multi-pronged approach to combating corruption, involving all actors within society.
“Corruption matters, even when it is not in our peripheral vision. It matters to governments and corporate leaders because of the speed with which it can lead to significant financial and reputational damage and retard economic development.
“It matters to our youth, the next generation of employers, workers and service providers who will face constant temptation when they enter the workplace, and sometimes, even earlier. And it matters to our citizens who pay the price for corruption through reductions in the quantity and quality of social services, decaying infrastructure, and inefficient state institutions,” said Smith.
The experts who addressed the event included the head of the CDB’s Office of Integrity, Compliance and Accountability, Dr Toussant Boyce, the Vice-President of Integrity at the World Bank Group, Mouhamadou Diagne and Laura Profeta, Chief, Office of Institutional Integrity at the Inter-American Development Bank.
The second day of the conference featured a virtual roundtable with the Attorneys General of The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. They discussed issues including anti-money laundering, countering the financing of terrorism, sanctions compliance risks, blacklisting and dealing with illicit financial flows.