The Government has taken another step to strengthen Jamaica’s anti-corruption laws through the tabling of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency ( MOCA ) Bill in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (March 21).
It is the second piece of legislation, designed to boost Jamaica’s anti-corruption framework, which the Administration has tabled, following the Integrity Commission Bill two months ago.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, who tabled the MOCA Bill during his 2017/18 Budget Debate presentation, said the legislation is designed to transform the body into an elite law-enforcement investigative agency, operating independently of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
This move, he said, forms part of the Administration’s ‘Plan Secure Jamaica’ initiative aimed at fostering peace and prosperity by tackling challenges associated with crime and violence, and poverty.
The Prime Minister underscored that corruption is one area in which “we have to give significant focus”, particularly in light of Jamaica’s challenges with crime and violence.
“Sometimes we miss the link between corruption and crime. Corruption that allows illegal guns and ammunition to come through our ports… that allows stolen motor vehicles to be registered and resold… corruption that furtively slows up and even denies the granting of a permit, in order to secure payment… must stop. MOCA is designed to tackle that kind of corruption,” he emphasised.
Mr. Holness noted that while corruption is often deemed confined to major illicit activities and involving public officials, “there are the small things, as well, that drive corruption and (hinder) economic growth. So there (will) now (be) a body that has the powers to investigate… public officials, or any other person or body… providing a service to the public”.
The Prime Minister said he is “not minded to have (the MOCA Bill) sent to a Select Committee, because I believe that the issues are quite clear and that we can debate it right away and have it passed (as) it is in the public’s interest”.
As it relates to the Integrity Commission Bill, the Prime Minister said it aims to promote and enhance standards of ethical conduct for Parliamentarians, public officials and other persons serving in a public capacity.
This, he noted, by consolidating laws related to corruption prevention and the award, monitoring and investigation of government contracts and prescribed licences.
Passage of the Integrity Commission Bill will result in the consolidation of the Contractor General Act, Corruption Prevention Commission Act and the Parliament (Integrity of Members) Act, and create a new entity called the Anti-corruption Commission.
Additionally, the Prime Minister said debate on the Bill to create the Anti-corruption Commission has started “(and) I am hoping that we can (also) pass (it) very soon”.
“When these pieces of legislation are finally passed in the House, Jamaica would have signalled to the world, our seriousness to tackle corruption that is driving crime and slowing economic growth… and put an end to people feeling that their tax dollars are not being properly spent,” Mr. Holness stressed.
Article by: Douglas McIntosh
Photo from: www.jis.gov.jm