Caribbean to benefit from new Commonwealth initiative to overcome corruption

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, CMC – Caribbean countries are expected to benefit from a new Commonwealth initiative to help member countries investigate and prosecute corruption offenses.

The Commonwealth Anti-Corruption Benchmarks framework is currently being developed by the Secretariat in consultation with member countries. It would provide clear steps to promote integrity and combat graft within public and private sectors.

Benchmarks to be set

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, speaking at the ongoing fifth annual regional meeting of the Caribbean heads of anti-corruption agencies, said the package consists of a set of 22 benchmarks, covering topics from sanctions for corruption offences to investigating and prosecuting authorities, and from political lobbying to the disclosure of asset ownership.

She said each benchmark is defined by a principle and contains detailed guidance for meeting the set level of achievement.

“The principles and guidance are consistent with international standards, and if adopted would go further in covering other areas of concern not previously addressed.”

Proposal to be considered by Commonwealth Heads

This is the first such framework to cover all areas of the public and private conduct. It is expected to be considered by the Commonwealth Heads of Governments in Rwanda next year.

At present, five Caribbean countries, namely The Bahamas, Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and St. Lucia, rank among the 50 least corrupt countries in the world, while none sit among the top 20 most corrupt.

“The Commonwealth’s leadership and cooperation contribute to this [achievement], which brings member countries together, recognizing that we are all at our strongest when we combine our efforts.

“The Commonwealth has been active in providing technical assistance and development support for national anti-corruption agencies to build their effectiveness in dealing with graft,” Scotland said, stressing however that the work of anti-corruption agencies must continue with renewed vigor in order to fully achieve the 16 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The meeting here, which ends on Friday, brings together the Caribbean’s most senior officials tasked with thwarting illicit financial flows.

It is being held under the theme “Transforming words into action: revitalizing the fight against corruption,” and the various panel discussions will cover areas such as corruption in sports, modernizing legislative frameworks, the investigative battle against corruption and new technologies to combat graft.

Cayman Islands’ Governor, Martyn Roper, said that the Commonwealth is “the source of good” to an increasingly divided world.

“The Cayman Islands have made great strides towards developing and implementing policies within the civil service and strengthening our integrity oversight bodies over the last few years. This meeting, therefore, comes at an opportune time for the Cayman Islands to intensify its enhancement of the ethical integrity of its public bodies.”

At the meeting, officials will review their national anti-graft efforts, exchange experiences and improve understanding of the advanced techniques and procedures. They will enhance their knowledge in forensics, financial accounting and asset tracking, as well as prosecutions, public awareness and prevention.

The Commonwealth has organized the meeting in collaboration with the Cayman Islands’ Commission for Standards in Public Life and the Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies in the Caribbean.

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