BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – The current COVID-19 pandemic has put into sharp focus the thorny and constantly evolving nature of corruption, and how it can reverse development gains in the Caribbean.
President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr William Warren Smith sounded this warning Monday as he opened the inaugural Caribbean Conference on Corruption, Compliance, and Cybercrime, jointly hosted by CDB and the World Bank.
“António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, reminded us that corruption thrives in times of crisis. We must, therefore, maintain our vigilance as COVID-19 responses open new avenues for exploiting weak oversight systems,” noted the Bank’s president.
He added that corruption was “an age-old problem” with “a remarkable capacity for reinvention” and stressed that it was critical for financial institutions such as CDB to employ diverse strategies to stay ahead of those who seek to “circumvent systems and processes.”
The virtual conference, which runs from December 7 to December 8, is one such strategy by the Bank, Dr Smith stated.
He noted that the conference includes topics “not typically addressed under the rubric of corruption” such as the roles of women, youth and media and emphasised this was because the Bank believes in a multi-pronged approach to combating corruption, involving all actors within society.
“Corruption matters, even when it is not in our peripheral vision. It matters to governments and corporate leaders because of the speed with which it can lead to significant financial and reputational damage and retard economic development.
It matters to our youth, the next generation of employers, workers and service providers who will face constant temptation when they enter the workplace, and sometimes, even earlier.
And it matters to our citizens who pay the price for corruption through reductions in the quantity and quality of social services, decaying infrastructure, and inefficient state institutions,” said Dr Smith.
The two-day conference features leading officials for integrity at key international development institutions– CDB’s Dr Toussant Boyce, head of its office of integrity, compliance and accountability, vice-president of integrity, World Bank Group, Mouhamadou Diagne and Laura Profeta, chief, office of institutional integrity at the Inter-American Development Bank.
The second day of the conference will also feature a virtual roundtable with the attorneys general of The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, focused on issues including anti-money laundering, countering the financing of terrorism, sanctions compliance risks, blacklisting and dealing with illicit financial flows.