Country Sint Maarten on its way to a National Integrity Assessment

There has been much discussion about integrity during the past months and two efforts underway to have the matter assessed in order to see where we are at as a country where this matter is concerned. Hon. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams has been in contact with Transparency International (TI). Dutch Prime Minister Hon. Mark Rutte has requested His Excellency Governor Eugene Holiday to conduct an independent inquiry on the issue of integrity.

The most likely body to carry out an assessment would be TI. TI is a global movement sharing one vision: a world in which government, business, civil society and the daily lives of people are free of corruption. In 1993, a few individuals decided to take a stance against corruption and created TI. It is an organization with presence in more than 100 countries.

Curacao is the last Caribbean country where TI carried out its National Integrity System (NIS) assessment, a concept that was developed in 2001. A NIS assessment evaluates the anti-corruption effectiveness of all principal institutions and actors that form a nation-state.

These principle institutions include all branches of government, the media, the public and private sector, and civil society. A TI NIS of Sint Maarten would cover the aforementioned.

NIS studies have been completed in more than 100 countries around the world according to TI. TI conducted its first NIS study in the Caribbean region in Jamaica in 2003, followed by a Caribbean composite report in 2004. From 2009-2011, TI carried out an NIS assessment in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The NIS provides a local framework which local organizations and citizens can use to analyse both the vulnerabilities of a given country to corruption, as well as the effectiveness of national anti-corruption efforts.

The purpose of a Sint Maarten NIS study would be to assess systematic corruption risks faced by the country and to produce a set of recommendations that can be used by actors in civil society, government and the private sector for promoting integrity in the country.

A NIS study of Sint Maarten could take about a year for the research and when the presentation is made to authorities; anywhere around the latter part of 2014 such a study could be presented.

The funding of the NIS study of Curacao came in the form of a grant agreement signed back in April 2012. The grant agreement ensured TI’s complete independence in all phases of the process, from initial research to final outcome and recommendations. Research for the Curacao NIS study was started back in summer 2012 and the report was presented in June 2013.

The Curacao NIS study found that there is a general lack of trust in Curacao’s key institutions and that this according to TI is a major obstacle for strengthening the foundations of the new country and will limit the success of any programme addressing corruption and promoting good governance.

Curacao’s NIS study found that the public sector, political parties and the media were the weakest links in the country’s ability to combat corruption.

The Curacao NIS also reveals that political parties in Curacao do not function well in all aspects, and that there is a potential risk of dominance of party discipline over governance both among members of Parliament as well with the Executive. This according to TI can hinder the independence of both institutions and, worryingly, blurs the separation of power as laid out in the Constitution.

The Judiciary, Ombudsman, supreme audit, and supervisory institutions scored relatively well in the Curacao NIS assessment.

Some recommendations from TI based on the findings of the Curacao NIS are that the country must ratify the United Nations Conventions against Corruption as a matter of urgency and develop a plan of action to ensure its implementation and enforcement also transparency of political party financing requires particular attention.

TI perhaps will recommend to the Sint Maarten Government at the end of a NIS assessment study to draft "whistle blower protection" legislation. This form of legislation would offer legal protections for workers who report concerns of wrongdoing in the public, private and non-profit sectors.

Another most likely recommendation would be Sint Maarten’s Parliament ratifying United Nations Conventions against Corruption. Our parliament could take the lead in doing that now and also looking into the whistle blower protection legislation, and have these in place by summer 2014 well ahead of the completion of any TI assessment.

Roddy Heyliger