15 November 2012

Guam Public Policy Institute coordinates leadership training

"To Educate. To Inspire. To Act."

The Public Policy Institute is a highly selective student internship program established by Speaker of the Guam Legislature Dr. Judith T. Won Pat. The program provides interns exposure to a vast network of distinguished leaders as well as to an array of professional and training opportunities for them to gain leadership, research, and work place skills and experiences.

Speaker of the Guam Legislature
Judith T. Won Pat
The Institute is a unique and rigorous program where interns have the opportunity to learn first-hand about the island's legislative process by participating in a variety of activities from bill research and writing, organizing and conducting public policy briefings, paging, and by providing executive-level staffing.

Interns also meet with distinguished leaders from a range of professional backgrounds and take fieldtrips to other branches of government in order gain a broader understanding of the separate but equal branches of of our democracy.

 Public Policy Institute Conducts Leadership Circles

The Leadership Circles (LCs) are a series of visits to each of the respective high schools designed to stimulate dialogue and foster a greater understanding, knowledge and appreciation of issues associated with social justice, decolonization diplomacy and political self-determination. LCs were recently facilitated by Dr. Carlyle Corbin, a United Nations recognized expert on self-determination and governance for over two decades. The LCs were conducted in a small group setting of students, teachers and community leaders.

The Public Policy Institute was instrumental in the coordination of the 2012 Global Forum which brought together students who assumed the role of diplomats from selected countries from specific regions of the world to debate an international issue of particular concern to economic, political and social development. The format is modeled after sessions of the United Nations General Assembly. Below are pictures of some of the action of the 2012 Global Forum.

Corruption: A Greater Problem In The United Kingdom

As part of the survey on corruption in Europe, Transparency International’s national chapter in the UK did a special focus on “corruption in the UK”. The results were damning: “Corruption is a greater problem in the UK than is currently recognised”, the research found.

Osei Boateng reports
Corruption: A Greater Problem In The UK
According to research conducted by Transparency International’s UK national chapter (TI-UK), “corruption is a greater problem in the UK than is currently recognised”, and while it is a “growing threat”, the government’s response is “inadequate”.
TI-UK’s special focus on “corruption in the UK was the most extensive of its type carried out in the country. It examined 23 sectors and institutions in Britain, and 48.1% of respondents said they did not think the government was effective in tackling corruption.According to the results, four institutions stood out as having particular problems with corruption: Parliament, political parties, prisons, and sports. Perhaps not surprisingly, political parties were perceived as the most corrupt in the country, followed by professional sport and Parliament.
What makes political parties more odious to the populace is that the UK is one of the few industrial democracies that do not have a ceiling on donations to political parties. As such, a high dependence on very large individual donations has increased the risk of corruption and exacerbated public unease about donors’ influence over politicians.
A good 86% of respondents said a seat in the House of Lords for a businessman who has made large donations to a political party was potentially corrupt. This view has been reinforced by recent scandals in Parliament involving MPs’ expenses, charges of nepotism against some MPs, the public’s continuing worries over lobbying companies, and the access of interest groups to MPs.
A scandal in March 2010 in which several MPs and former ministers offered their influence and contacts to journalists posing as representatives of a potential corporate employer interested in hiring them for lobbying work, has also exacerbated concerns about the “revolving door” between government and the private sector. Respondents think this is undermining trust in government, because of the potential conflicts of interest.
According to TI-UK’s research: “Discussion in the UK about the problem of corruption often tends to assume, rather complacently, that it is a problem that exists in other countries, particularly in the developing world. [But] corruption has been a problem in the UK for much of its history and it was widespread in the 18th and 19th centuries. Bribe-paying was common, and it is less than 200 years since a seat in Parliament could easily be bought or given as a gift. The UK is therefore not immune to corruption.
“[However] the growth of strong institutions in a democratic framework has led to a significant decline in corruption, and the UK of today performs relatively well in international tables and indices on corruption. For example, the UK was ranked 20th out of 180 in the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index, although this had declined from 11th place five years ago.” Today research shows that bribery is relatively unusual in the UK, although in the institutions and sectors in which corruption is a particular risk, bribery is more common – for example in the construction sector and prisons.
“In general,” says TI-UK, “corruption in the UK takes forms other than bribery, but is nevertheless damaging. For example, cronyism and conflicts of interest are common forms of corruption ... and as in any country, corruption in the UK has victims. However, they may be less apparent in the UK because they are part of marginalised groups in society or because the corruption operates in intangible ways and so the victims are not immediately clear.”
From TI-UK’s research, the following categories of corruption are prevalent in the UK: Bribery, collusion, conflict of interest, cronyism or nepotism, fraud, gifts and hospitality, lobbying, money laundering, revolving door, abuse of authority or trading in influence, illegal disclosure of information and misuse of IT systems, and vote rigging.
Yet “there is a disturbing state of complacency, and even denial, about the existence of the problem in key UK institutions and sectors,” says TI-UK. “An overall theme that emerges from the research is that there is a general lack of awareness and understanding of corruption as a problem, both within institutions and more generally.”
As such the combination of the lack of awareness and the lack of information make it difficult to reach firmer conclusions about the scale of corruption in the UK. “Disturbingly,” says TI-UK, “there is a sense that corruption in the UK is increasing. This was the public perception in our national opinion survey.”
But inadequate government response has created a culture of impunity. TI-UK research found that in all areas, the corruption of key officials, often in the form of bribery, was a critical factor in allowing wrongdoing to take place.
Interestingly, the UK has several laws and regulations that cover offences related to corruption. The most prominent of these is the new Bribery Act passed in 2010. There is also the 2006 Fraud Act, and the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act, and other anti-money laundering legislation.
There are also 12 different agencies or government departments with partial responsibility for anti-corruption activities plus more than 40 police forces in the country. But it is clear that they are not doing enough to share information and good practice on corruption prevention.
As such, TI-UK’s research found that the tentacles of organised crime extend to several UK sectors where criminal activity and corruption are inextricably linked. “The UK Border Agency has been targeted by organised crime, as have the police and the prison service. Social housing is [also] exploited by organised criminals either to facilitate drug trafficking or prostitution, or to house illegal immigrants who are involved in such activities.”
One interview respondent told the TI-UK research team: “Corruption is an enabler, like violence and intimidation are enablers. Criminals will use the lowest risk option, which is usually corruption [and] this can have a massive impact on the UK...”
In recent years, prominent cases of corruption such as match fixing in snooker, spot fixing in cricket, cheating in rugby, and irregular payments associated with the transfer of football players have made the UK public see sports as the second most corrupt sector in the country. Approximately one-third (24) of recent cases of corruption in sports has involved football.
According to a leaked Scotland Yard investigation in 2006, there are around 1,000 corrupt prison officers currently working, with a further 600 officers being involved in an inappropriate relationship with a prisoner. In 2009 alone, there were 10,090 prosecutions under the 2006 Fraud Act. And in 2007, an inquiry into corruption in sports found that irregular payments had been made in 17 football transfers.
“It is currently estimated that 38,000 people are involved in organised crime in the UK, and such activities cost the economy anywhere between £20 billion and 30 billion per year,” says TI-UK. “A 2006 survey for the construction sector found that 41% of respondents had personally been offered a bribe at least once.”
TI-UK recommends that more action should be taken by the government to understand “the growing threat of corruption in key sectors of the UK”. Politicians, business, and institutions urgently need to understand that corruption must be tackled consistently and coherently. 

'Modernised' constitutions, same old colonial game in Cayman


November 09, 2012

The art of control

In 2009, the Cayman Islands reached a great milestone in its democratic process by negotiating and holding the first ever national referendum to modernise its Constitution. This approved Constitution was subsequently accepted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Privy Council on 10 June 2009, and then came into effect later that year.

This was a significant accomplishment through which, as a country, we took the decision and followed through on the process to determine how we want to govern ourselves and live in the 21st century.

Interestingly, the Bill of Rights, which came into effect this week, was also part of that 2009 Constitution. This was another first and through it we now have an instrument that defines our fundamental human rights and freedoms and provides the framework through which such rights can be protected and defended.

The development and acceptance of a modernised Cayman Islands Constitution in 2009 all seemed to be aligning itself to the United Nations position in May of 2008, in which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pleaded with administering colonial powers to actively engage in the process of decolonisation of their member colonies.

While the 2009 Constitution did not do away with the age-old relationship between the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom as our “mother country”, it certainly intended to, and basically provided for a greater level of autonomy in governance by local officials, elected by and for the people.

Yet, three years later after implementing our modernised Constitution, we find ourselves in an odd position. The United Kingdom has stepped in and taken control of approving our annual government budget. In addition, they will also be providing significant oversight over our decisions regarding public sector development projects.

While it is agreed that the UK bears ultimate responsibility for us as a colony, the actions by the UK appear to be a step back in the process of preparing a country for ultimate self-governance. Where does this align itself with the UN Secretary-General’s mandate of moving towards decolonisation?

This week, we watched in amazement as the Premier, Hon McKeeva Bush, took on the UK regarding the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility (FFR), and the capital project of developing the George Town cruise port by a Chinese company. At the end of what played out as a rancorous exchange of letters and press statements between Cayman, the Governor’s office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Premier assented to the FCO’s demands – implementation of the FFR without amendment and cessation of negotiations on the port project with China Harbour Engineering Company.

Most will agree that the FFR is a good thing for our country. Nonetheless, the one key area of contention pointed out by the Premier, namely that of the UK having ultimate decision over matters pertaining to our financial industry and investment affairs, definitely was not a step in the right direction. If the UK insists that we journey down a certain road against our wishes, and their decision ultimately has negative repercussions for the country, then the UK should be made liable to compensate us for any bad advice given, upon which we are forced to act.

The Premier is to be commended for his stance against the FCO on this point, as it is critical for the long-term viability of our country in the global financial arena.

While our constitution has been enhanced in recent years, the UK appears to still be up to its same old game of controlling colonies for their eventual gain. Only time will tell whether the decisions made by the UK on our behalf will truly be for our benefit, or theirs.