Fri | Feb 26, 2021

Corruption perception driving away foreign investors

Published:Friday | December 18, 2020 | 12:23 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis displays the ISO 9001 certification received by her department Thursday after completing a two-year quality standards exercise with the National Certification Body of Jamaica.
Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis displays the ISO 9001 certification received by her department Thursday after completing a two-year quality standards exercise with the National Certification Body of Jamaica.

Jamaica’s ranking on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) poses a barrier to the Audley Shaw-led Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce’s efforts to woo foreign direct investment to the country, a global quality expert has said.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standards Ambassador Reginald Budhan said that foreign direct investment was crucial to growing the economy and creating employment.

In its 2019 CPI report, Transparency International positioned Jamaica as the fourth most corrupt state among Caribbean countries ahead of Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Haiti.

The 2019 index showed Jamaica scoring 43, one place lower than the 44 it scored in 2018, in a context where zero is deemed very corrupt and 100 is very clean.

With a score of 43, the country’s ranking has dipped sharply from 70 to 74 out of 180 countries.

“We cannot attract investment in a climate like that, so what the minister is trying to do is to improve this business environment. He wants to see our corruption index go down. He wants to see all our regulatory agencies that monitor the public sector to be effective, doing a good job, so that we can say that the public sector is running good,” Budhan noted.

The standards ambassador was speaking on Thursday at the Sts Peter and Paul Church on Old Hope Road where the Auditor General’s Department received the ISO 9001 certification.

NEGATIVE IMPACT

Budhan said that Jamaica is impacted negatively when there are adverse reports from the Auditor General’s Department and the Integrity Commission about the public sector.

He reasoned that by getting the Auditor General’s Department to become ISO 9001 certified, “what we are actually doing is to give the auditor general several more hands because under the ISO 9001 standard, each organisation, in addition to their normal auditors, which they must have, needs to have a set of quality auditors”.

He said those “quality auditors” span the entire structure of the organisation.

“They are trained and empowered to audit anybody in the organisation.

“What it does is that it forces accountability at all levels of the system. So what this is doing is empowering the auditor general and her machinery to get the government machinery working good so that the PAC (Public Accounts Committee) chairman can have less work to do.

“When we do that, we are going to improve the quality of the business environment,” he added.

PAC Chairman Julian Robinson urged public servants not to bow to pressure to break government rules and procedures.

“We have had many instances over the last number of years of corruption, cronyism, and nepotism, and I know it is difficult sometimes for public servants to resist that pressure, but I want to encourage them to do so,” he said.

He advised public sector workers to utilise the whistleblower law.

With lost revenues of more than $80 billion this year fuelled by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Robinson said “we have to be prudent with how public resources are spent”.

While looking forward to his role as PAC chairman, Robinson said: “I don’t relish having public servants appear before us where breaches exist.”

However, he said that the committee would carry out its job diligently and fearlessly.

In her remarks, Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis said the journey to ISO certification did not start at ground zero as the department had policies and procedures in place.

However, the process to achieve ISO 9001 caused the oversight body to “review our systems thoroughly to determine [not only] sufficiency of policy, but also relevance”.

“But more importantly, I think the ISO policy framework was that thread that actually tied all the business processes and the people together in a logical and structured way,” she added.

Navenia Wellington Ford, manager of the National Certification Body of Jamaica, said the ISO 9001 certification received by the Auditor General’s Department is internationally recognised.

“ISO 9001 is the quality management system standard that we use currently. This standard encompasses parameters such as leadership commitment, risk management, customer focus, performance evaluation and improvement,” said Wellington Ford.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com