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OAS ANTI-CORRUPTION MECHANISM ADOPTS ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA REPORT

At its Twenty Fifth Meeting, held March 16 20, 2015, the Committee of Experts of the Follow-up Mechanism for the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (MESICIC) adopted its first report on Antigua and Barbuda.

Bearing in mind that Antigua and Barbuda was not party to the MESICIC when the First Round of MESICIC was conducted, the country report is a comprehensive review of its implementation of the provisions of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption that the Committee of Experts of the MESICIC selected for review in the First Round and the Fourth Round.

The provisions selected for review in the First Round are those provided for in Article III, paragraph 1 (Standards of conduct: conflicts of interest, conservation of public resources, obligation to report); Article III, paragraph 2 (Mechanisms to enforce the standards of conduct); Article III, paragraph 4 (Systems for registering income, assets and liabilities); Article III, paragraph 9 (Oversight bodies); Article III, paragraph 11 (Participation by civil society); Article XIV (Assistance and Cooperation), and Article XVIII (Central Authorities).

Article III, paragraph 9 was selected for the Fourth Round, which concerns the oversight bodies with a view to implementing modern mechanisms for preventing, detecting, punishing and eradicating corrupt acts.

The review was carried out taking into account the response received from Antigua and Barbuda to the questionnaire, the information compiled by the Technical Secretariat, and a new and important source of information, namely the on-site visit conducted between October 7 and 9, 2014 by the preliminary review subgroup for Antigua and Barbuda, composed of the Bahamas and Chile, with the support of the MESICIC Technical Secretariat.  During that visit, the information furnished by Antigua and Barbuda was clarified and expanded and the opinions of civil society organizations were heard. 

FIRST ROUND

With respect to the review of standards of conduct and mechanisms to enforce them, the recommendations made to Antigua and Barbuda included the following:

-       Regulate the Integrity in Public Life Act 2004 and the Prevention of Corruption Act 2004, in order to create and implement mechanisms and guidelines that make it possible to determine, in concrete cases, whether a person who performs public functions is in a situation of conflict of interests, and, at the same time, adopt measures necessary to protect public interests, such as dissociation from the exercise of their functions, withdrawal from official involvement in the matter, relinquishment of the private interests in conflict, or nullity of any decisions adopted by a person in such a position;

Regarding the review of the systems for registering income, assets and liabilities, the recommendations made included the following:

-       Consider establishing administrative sanctions for those who fail to comply with the obligation to file a declaration of income, assets and liabilities; or those who report incomplete, inaccurate or false information; as well as for those who fail to provide the Integrity Commission with further information within a specified period, when so requested; these sanctions might include the withholding of salary and, for those who have left public service, fines and the disqualification from any public office until such time as the final asset declaration is filed.

With regard to the mechanisms to encourage participation by civil society and nongovernmental organizations in efforts to prevent corruption, the recommendations included the following:

-       Ensure that the public authorities that have not yet done so comply with Section 9 of the Freedom of Information Act 2004 and appoint their respective information officers;

-       Strengthen the Office of the Commissioner of Information, by ensuring that it has the human, financial and technological resources needed to properly perform its functions, taking the availability of resources into account; and

-       Compile and disseminate a clear and simple guide containing practical information to facilitate the effective exercise of rights pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act 2004, as required by Section 8(1) of the Act.

As for mutual assistance, mutual technical cooperation and central authorities, the following was recommended:

-       Design and implement a comprehensive training and dissemination program for the competent authorities and officials, so that they are made aware of and are able to apply the provisions contained in the Convention and in other treaties that Antigua and Barbuda has signed that concern mutual assistance in the investigation or prosecution of acts of corruption.

Based on the review and contributions made throughout the report, the following were among the general recommendations also offered: 

-       Design and implement, where appropriate, training programs for public servants responsible for application of the systems, standards, measures, and mechanisms included in this report, in order to ensure that they are thoroughly understood and properly handled and applied; and

-       Select and develop procedures and indicators, as appropriate, for verifying follow-up of the recommendations contained in this Report, and notify the Committee accordingly through the Technical Secretariat.

FOURTH ROUND

The oversight bodies of Antigua and Barbuda reviewed in this report are: The Integrity Commission; the Public Service Commission (PSC); the Office of the Attorney General; the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and; the Office of the Director of Audit (ODA).

Some of the recommendations formulated to Antigua and Barbuda for its consideration in connection with the aforementioned bodies are, among others, the following:

-       Provide the Integrity Commission, the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the DPP and the Office of the Director of Audit, with the appropriate infrastructure, budgetary and human resources needed for the proper performance of their function, within available resources.

-       As regards the Integrity Commission, consider providing it with the authority to impose administrative sanctions for breaches of the Integrity in Public Life Act 2004, subject to the Constitution and the fundamental principles of its legal system and maintain results on those sanctions that allow for a comprehensive evaluation of their effectiveness.

-       Regarding the PSC, modify the Public Service Commission Regulations so that a public officer who is acquitted of a criminal charge in any Court is not precluded from having disciplinary proceedings instituted against him or her in respect of an alleged act of misconduct implicit in that criminal charge, in accordance with the fundamental principles of the legal system of Antigua and Barbuda.

-       With respect to the Office of the Attorney General, take the necessary steps to establish the Anti-Corruption Unit and to review the existing legal anti-corruption framework to ensure that the Unit works in coordination with the existing oversight bodies, such as the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Integrity Commission.

-       Concerning the Office of the DPP, adopt the measures necessary to preserve its autonomy; adopt coordination measures with other bodies; ensure a greater budgetary independence of the DPP; assign a sufficient number of prosecutors and support staff to it and ensure that prosecutors receive periodic training on how to prosecute corrupt acts.

-       Regarding the ODA, consider providing it with the legal obligation to report an irregularity, such as fraudulent activity, to appropriate authorities; and take the necessary steps to ensure that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meets on a periodic basis and consider reviewing the Parliamentary Standing Orders and the PAC Regulations in order to ensure that ODAs reports presented to Parliament are addressed promptly so as to permit swift corrective actions.

During this Twenty Fifth Meeting, similar reports were adopted for Venezuela, The Bahamas, the United States of America, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. The Antigua and Barbuda report adopted by the Committee, as well as the aforementioned countries, are available here

For more information, please visit the Anti-corruption Portal of the Americas.

 

Edition N 229 - March 2015

What is the MESICIC?

The Mechanism For Follow-up on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, known as MESICIC for its Spanish acronym, is a tool to support the development of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption through cooperation between States Parties.

Read more here


 

 

 

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