Oh, this is tricky….

Good governance is as hard to find in Jamaica as a good snow-covered slope. For years, we’ve had political leaders hoist the flags of transparency and accountability. But, like something surrounded by a force field, these aims seem unapproachable. The furore about declaration of assets is but another example of this.

Promises that go unfulfilled seem to fill our lives, and are as Jamaican as apple pie is to Americans.Why is this so hard?

Can we rely on Parliament to give us good governance?

 While we consider financial declaration, we can look at key guidance. Transparency International produced a working paper on the subject in 2014. It’s easy reading and its messages are clear:

  • Asset declarations serve to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute corruption.
  • Asset disclosures need to capture elements that could potentially influence or corrupt public officials: assets, liabilities, income from all sources, gifts and potential conflicts of interests.
  • Publication of asset declarations should be aligned with access to information or government disclosure policies, which often use 30 days as the standard for public disclosure.  
  • Asset declarations should be available online and in a machine-readable format to ensure timely access and the use of extractable data by third parties (i.e. civil society, media, etc.).
  • An oversight agency should be established in law to verify the accuracy of information in declarations, including through cross-checking data and physical verification.

Organic movement towards these goals seems unlikely in Jamaica. So who should push for them and how? We, the people. The government talks of debt-for-policy swaps. Is it ready for debt-for-action on corruption?