Transparency International report: Country lacks anti-corruption agency

POSTED: 08/6/15 6:56 PM

GREAT BAY – St. Maarten does not have an anti-corruption agency,” Transparency International writes in the National Integrity System Assessment it published earlier this week.

According to TI, such an agency is “a specialized, statutory and independent public body of a durable nature, with a specific mission to fight corruption and reduce the opportunity structures propitious for its occurrence in society, through preventive and/or repressive measures.”

This means that the country mainly is dependent on institutions like the General Audit Chamber, the Ombudsman and the court system to expose, tackle and fight corruption.

The audit chamber made its first step in this field already in March of last year with the publication of its baseline study institutional integrity management. Among its recommendations is the establishment of a code of conduct for parliament and the Council of Ministers. So far, the parliament has largely ignored the report, let alone that it has even started a discussion about a code of conduct. Adjusting the rules of order of parliament took 40 months; this gives an idea of the speed at which the parliamentary system operates.

The General Audit Chamber depends on the parliament for its budget. “Up to now budgets have been sufficient and stable,” the TI-report notes.

At the same time, the parliament has not discussed a single report produced by the audit chamber during the three previous years. However, the audit chamber has noted that the civil service has made a start with executing recommendations and making improvements based on its reports. These improvements include the financial management at the Security Service VDSM and the handling of the debts at social insurance agency SZV.

What about the Ombudsman? Transparency International did not find examples “indicating that the Ombudsman or her staff is politically influenced in executing their tasks.”

The report notes that the Ombudsman ceased the activities of her own firm to safeguard her independence “although her name and telephone number were still mentioned on the website of this firm until recently, a new website is now under construction,” the report notes.

TI found that “information accessible by the public and on individual investigations could be more transparent.”

Respondents told TI that the Ombudsman is “very cautious’ with the publication of the outcome of investigations. “Too academic” is one of the qualifications the report mentions about the information the Ombudsman provides about its activities.

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