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(Dr. Arun Kashyap, UN RC/UNDP RR in Jamaica at podium. From the left: Professor Trevor Munroe; Dr. Peter Phillips, Opposition Spokesman on Finance and representative of the Most Honourable Portia Simpson- Miller, Leader of the Opposition; Professor Antony Harriot. Mona Visitors’ Lodge and Conference Centre (Gold Room), University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica. Carol Narcisse/UNDP Jamaica)
UNDP Jamaica collaborated with the National Integrity Action Limited (NIAL) in staging a public forum and the launch of the civil society watch dog group, NIAL, in observance of the UN International Anti-Corruption Day, December 9, 2011.
The event was part of the global ACT (Against Corruption Today) Campaign a joint initiative of the UNDP and UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and had the participation of Prime Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness as well as Dr. Peter Phillips, Opposition Spokesman on Finance and representative of the Most Honourable Portia Simpson- Miller, Leader of the Opposition, signaling the high-level national commitment to the cause of anti-corruption in Jamaica.
In his remarks, Dr. Arun Kashyap, UN Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative, UNDP, said the participation of the leaders underscored the importance of an accountable, transparent and responsive government. Declaring corruption as " immoral and ... unacceptable", Dr. Kashyap outlined the disproportionate impact which corruption has on the poor and disadvantaged in society. He said corruption impacts the poor and disadvantaged by reducing their access to basic goods and services, reducing their options and entitlements and therefore undermining development including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and their important targets. "Misuse of public funds hinders economic development and increases inequities and human insecurity through reduced social services, and access to necessary infrastructure and institutions" Dr. Kashyap said.
NIAL Executive Director, Prof. Trevor Munroe, challenged the main political parties contending in the National elections on December 29 to declare their position on several proposed anti-corruption measures including the June 2011 recommendations of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica on election campaign finance reform. Professor Munroe urged the parties to reflect their commitment to the implementation of the recommendations in their Manifestos and called for their commitment to the passage of the relevant legislation within the first 100 days of the new Administration whichever Party is successful in the elections
Responding to the challenge, Prime Minister, the Hon. Andrew Holness said that anti-corruption measures were priorities of the government. "Wherever there is corruption there is inefficiency and wherever there is inefficiency there is inequity in the society', the Prime Minister said. " The government understands the economic imperative of fighting corruption". Prime Minister Holness said he was in support of campaign finance reform, but, he said this would have to go hand in hand with state financing of elections.
Dr. Peter Phillips gave the commitment that campaign finance reform would be acted on by his Party if in government, as soon as the legislation was drafted and presented to the Parliament. Dr. Phillips also gave a commitment to amalgamating the Office of the Contractor General, Corruption Prevention Commission and Parliamentary Integrity Commission to create a single anti-corruption agency with power to directly investigate and prosecute corruption in an appropriate collaborative mechanism with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The UN Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative of UNDP shared how the Agency was "walking the talk" through its support for efforts to strengthen capability at the local level, to provide transparency and oversight of public expenditure. The initiative is being implemented in partnership with the UWI Centre for Leadership and Governance, the National Association of Parish Development Committees and the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication, as well as key state actors including the Department of Local Government and the Social Development Commission. UNDP has assisted in empowering civil society bodies at parish level and strengthening their capacity to scrutinize budgeting, planning and expenditure. The initiative has also supported training of media professionals to better report on public expenditure at the local level and provided support to mayors and parish managers to ensure effective functioning of the main forum for oversight - the Local Public Accounts Committees.
As part of the International Anti-Corruption Day event the UN team in Jamaica joined UN teams around the world, in launching three sector studies on combating corruption in the education, health and water sectors. The three studies map corruption risks, and present methods, tools and good practices in tackling corruption.
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