Today the world commemorates December 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day. Corruption is defined by Transparency International (TI) as ‘the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.’ Anti-Corruption Day gives citizens an occasion to reflect on the devastating impact of corruption on the most vulnerable in our society. Corruption diverts essential resources and quickly weakens all sectors of society.
Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute (TTTI), the national chapter of Transparency International, works for “a world in which government, politics, business, civil society and the daily lives of people are free of corruption”. TTTI as a non-governmental, civil society organization has been seeking to fulfil its mandate through advocacy and public education on matters of good governance, integrity and anti-corruption. TTTI is the anti-corruption agency in Trinidad and Tobago leading the fight against corruption.
Some of TTTI’s key activities include:
- Launch of the Corruption Perceptions Index each year
- Operating our School Integrity Club Project in secondary schools
- Advocating for reform, proclamation and implementation of key anti-corruption legislation
- Hosting an Annual Anti-Corruption Conference on relevant topics
- Consultations with civil society organisations using our Civil Society Accountability Toolkit
- Operating our Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) which provides free legal advice to witnesses and victims of corruption
- Lobbying for transparency and accountability in the collection of energy sector revenues as a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (TTEITI)
The Institute recognizes that 2020 has been a very challenging year for Trinidad and Tobago and by extension the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has strained several economies and has even crippled that of many nations. The pandemic has caused Governments around to world to engage in large amounts of spending. In a report published by Transparency International, it was noted that over US$1 billion was lost to corruption and malfeasance related to COVID-19 spending.
According to UN Secretary, General Antonio Guterres, the response to the virus has created new opportunities to exploit weak oversight and inadequate transparency.
The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property (Amendment) Bill 2020 which was passed in the Upper House last night contains elements which, in TTTI’s view, undermine the integrity of the provisions of the Public Procurement regime and the principles of transparency, accountability and value for money. Nevertheless, it is imperative that the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property regime be fully operationalized and the Regulations adopted as a matter of urgency. It is the expectation of TTTI that once the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act is fully operational it will be a useful asset towards ensuring, accountability in expenditure, while building trust and confidence at all levels of society.
The theme for International Anti-Corruption Day 2020 is Recover with Integrity. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – “Corruption thrives in times of crisis and the present COVID-19 pandemic has not been an exception. This year, Governments have been pushed to mobilize billions in funds to procure medical equipment and provide an economic safety net for citizens and businesses.” TTTI is of the view that in order for Trinidad and Tobago’s economy to recover and thrive, there must be transparency and accountability in all public procurement. Good governance has never been more important.
To recover with Integrity, Trinidad and Tobago also needs to protect and encourage Whistleblowers. Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International recently noted, that “It is time for everyone, from citizens to heads of government to business leaders, to recognize the importance of Whistleblowers for the good of society, and make sure they are protected.”
The Whistleblower legislation was presented to Parliament in 2019 but unfortunately, did not receive the full support of the House of Representatives. TTTI takes this opportunity to call on the Government to reintroduce this Bill and for all current members of Parliament to do their duty and protect our whistleblowers.
Another important concern of TTTI is the significant increase in Gender-based violence in Trinidad and Tobago. Too many lives of young women are being taken by predators and as a result of domestic violence. TTTI commends the efforts of the Gender-Based Violence Unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and other civil society organizations who have been raising awareness and advocating for legislative reform and protection of our women and girls.
Another important aspect of our Recovery is the enforcement of the long-awaited Campaign Finance Legislation. TI’s Chair, Delia Ferreira Rubio stated that “Governments must urgently address the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on our political systems.” Thus, TTTI calls on Parliament to urgently implement this critical piece of legislation. Anti-corruption and good governance matters must receive priority, if Trinidad and Tobago is to recover economically, socially and morally. The future of our children depends on it.
Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute stands firmly against corruption while remaining committed to our mission – To stop corruption and promote transparency, accountability and integrity at all levels and across all sectors of society.
Today, TTTI calls on those entrusted with power as well as all citizens to unite and let Trinidad and Tobago hold power to account and recover with integrity.
Anti-Corruption Day 2020 Spoken Word Performances
Anti-Corruption Day Webinar
Earlier today, TTTI’s Chair, Dion Abdool delivered a presentation at an Anti-Corruption Day webinar hosted by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS). Mr. Abdool’s presentation was entitled: How can Civil Society and Law Enforcement Agency work together to Combat Corruption?