Home Forums Corruption in an Era of Climate Change Discussions on the Research Paper

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  • N Suneechur
    Keymaster
    Post count: 1

    I congratulate Mrs Sorensen and the team for the paper.

    The proposals made are very much valid and interesting. But I would like to know the amount lost to corruption in monetary terms during the recovery process. Do we have a figure? As the extent of the problem determines the level of control/measures to be implemented?

    Thanks
    Nandita

    Nastili
    Moderator
    Post count: 3

    Indeed, the issue raised is pertinent.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by  N Suneechur.
    Juliet Sorensen
    Participant
    Post count: 3

    Dear All,

    Thank you very much for this kind introduction. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to discuss our work with this group. I, too, look forward to a robust discussion and your questions and feedback.

    My name is Juliet Sorensen, and I am the Harry R. Horrow Professor of International Law at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago. My interests include public corruption and the law, and also the relationship of corruption to climate change, extreme weather, and natural resources. In addition to numerous articles on the subject, I am the author of Public Corruption and the Law: Cases and Materials (West Academic 2017), and teach a course here at Northwestern entitled “Public Corruption and the Law: Local, National, International.”

    My interest in the topic originated not as an academic, but as a federal prosecutor here in Chicago, working on a case involving corruption in the City of Chicago’s departments of building and zoning. In the course of researching other federal corruption cases, I came across one in which a company that owned snowplows had bribed a railroad for an exclusive contract to snowplow the railroad tracks in a winter of heavy storms. This simple example of extreme weather as a catalyst for corruption caused me to consider the issue of corruption in an era of climate change and extreme weather, and what measures can be taken to prevent it.

    Hurricane Irma’s impact on Sint Maarten was devastating. In terms of physical force, the hurricane – one of the strongest ever recorded – flattened the island, destroying or significantly damaging houses, schools, hospitals, the airport, and other vital structures. In terms of economic damage, Irma inflicted an immediate, enormous cost – the cost of rebuilding – but also undermined the lifeblood of Sint Maarten’s economy, tourism. These tolls have been exacerbated by corruption, long a problem on the island. Efforts by providers of much needed humanitarian relief to ensure accountability and transparency in the reconstruction process, including a long-discussed Integrity Chamber, have been controversial.

    Sint Maarten’s challenges are similar to those in other SIDS, but it is unique in other respects. I would encourage participants in the forum to read the paper in full, both because I would value your feedback, and also because perhaps there are aspects that are relevant to challenges you face in your own anti-corruption work.

    Again, it is a pleasure to participate. My sincere thanks to the host of the forum, ICAC Mauritius, and the moderator, Ms. Sigall Horovitz of the UNODC.

    Very truly yours,
    Juliet Sorensen

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by  N Suneechur.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by  N Suneechur.
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    Juliet Sorensen
    Participant
    Post count: 3

    Dear Nandita,

    Thank you for raising this excellent question. Unfortunately, the answer is difficult to articulate with precision. First, because corruption is covert, it is difficult to quantify unless it is exposed. Even when it is exposed, it may not be exposed or quantified in its entirety.

    Second, Hurricane Irma occurred ten months ago, and the reconstruction process is ongoing. Therefore, if corrupt activity accompanies the reconstruction, that loss amount is continuing to increase.

    However, we can identify instances of corrupt conduct that occurred in Sint Maarten before Irma that enable us to infer that the post-Irma loss amount based on corruption is substantial. For example, a recent notable pre-Irma prosecution is the “Emerald Investigation,” which included 7 defendants. All 7 were convicted and sentenced in 2018; however, the investigation began in 2016 around suspicious activities that took place between 2013-2016, i.e. pre-Irma. Defendants’ activities included:

    o MP Frans Richardson (F.G.R.) – $370,000 in bribes re: “vote buying”
    o Former Port Director Mark Mingo – $7 million for scheme per Public Prosecutor’s Office, 6 million guilders in tax revenue also per the Public Prosecutor’s Office and St. Maarten’s tax authorities
    o Check Mate Security Director O’Neal Arrindell: “Under the new contract, however, the rate was scheduled to increase by some 48.5 per cent, from $7.07 to $10.50 per hour.”
    o MP elect Chanel Brownbill, “failed to declare income and turnover tax for US $1,262,078 in invoices paid by the St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies to Country Construction Company’s bank account…. In total, the companies deprived country St. Maarten of over NAf. 6 million in tax revenue, according to the tax office.”

    The aid fund created by the Netherlands to support Sint Maarten is 550 million euros, and is administered by the World Bank.

    Yours,
    Juliet Sorensen

    Jheengut
    Moderator
    Post count: 9

    Dear participants

    Greetings from ICAC Mauritius!

    It’s nearly one week now since we launched this forum. However, we note that the level of participation is not to our expectation. We do however realize that you need to go through the document first before you engage in fruitful discussions. You will note that there are a number of pertinent issues that are of direct relevance to all of us. These include public procurement, implementation of codes of conduct and effective whistle blowing from a SIDs perspective.

    We are eager to see this process of sharing of experiences, challenges and solutions.

    We invite you to login and engage in this forum established for this purpose.

    Best wishes and good luck

    I Jheengut

    Hossenbux
    Participant
    Post count: 4

    Climate change is arguably one of the biggest challenges we need to face. Huge money is spent and needed to prevent and respond to it. Big financial transaction means tempting opportunities for corruption and other forms of malpractices. We thus need a transparent effective and accountable climate governance framework. What are the possible solutions?

    • Documented policies and procedures must be developed in an open way. And everyone affected must take part. Then, corruption prevention measures must be implemented at all levels. They must be in line so as to ensure transparent and accountable decisions to manage climate change. They include management of conflict of interests, development of codes of conduct, awareness programs and conducts of corruption risk assessment exercises.

    • Moreover existing environmental legislations/regulations do not necessarily address acts of corruption. They provide the regulatory framework which essentially must be complemented with other strategies which seek to prevent and detect corruption risks. Moreover, penalties should be more rigid. Higher penalties may function as a deterrent and help offset the lack of control and oversight.

    • We must build checks and balances into climate policy. Independent oversight bodies are also needed. But they must have salaried staff with technical expertise with regard to climate change.

    • Private companies must disclose their positions on climate policy and climate change. For example: Which causes do they support? What are their Corporate Social Responsibilty (CSR) roles in helping communities affected by climate change?

    Thanks
    Y. Hossenbux

    Meyer
    Participant
    Post count: 4

    Hello All,

    My name is Elise Meyer and I am an attorney and a clinical fellow in health and human rights at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago. I am a co-author of the paper and am very grateful for the thought-provoking discussion so far (and looking forward to more). I’d also like to echo the thanks to ICAC Mauritius and our moderator, Ms. Sigall Horovitz of the UNODC.

    Y. Hossenbux — Thank you for sharing your excellent points on potential solutions to the problem of corruption in climate change response. In our work we focused on environmental law in particular as an area of great importance. Addressing corruption as part of environmental law and policy should be considered an essential part of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

    Your point about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is poignant. While we did not focus on CSR in our research, we were struck by what appeared to us as a discrepancy in CSR on Sint Maarten. Namely that the two drivers of the economy are the casino industry and the cruise ship industry. It seems the latter has been very active in stating its commitment to environmental protection; the former, not at all. I’m wondering if you or others have conducted research into the issue? Or what your experience has been with the major industries fueling other SIDS’ economies regarding corruption and climate change?

    Thank you,
    Elise

    Hossenbux
    Participant
    Post count: 4

    Dear Mrs Meyer,

    First of all, I want to thank you for your interesting comments regarding corruption aspects on climate change.

    I am Chief Corruption Prevention Officer at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Mauritius. One of my core activities at the ICAC is to perform systems reviews in public bodies so as to improve their systems and procedures against risks of corruption and other forms of malpractices. In fact, several points raised in my last comment (e.g. policies and procedures, oversight mechanisms, conflict of interests, etc.) are also mentioned in recommendations as contained in our corruption prevention reports as they are means and ways to increase transparency, accountability and fairness in the different activities of public bodies.

    However, as far as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is concerned, unfortunately, we have not conducted much research on this issue. I have shared this CSR idea based on some internet search and as per international best practices on how to tackle corruption in climate change. But, I am of the opinion that it is essential to increase our knowledge pertaining to this issue and subsequently perform some more research and studies regarding CSR.

    Thank you
    Y. Hossenbux

    Jheengut
    Moderator
    Post count: 9

    Dear Ms Sorensen and Ms Meyer

    Thank you for your interactions.

    I note that you make reference to whistle blowing. Indeed an effective whistle blowing mechanism is key to get civil society engagement towards reporting acts of corruption. Confidentiality may become an issue/challenge, especially in SIDs. The culture prevailing in SIDs can be a barrier to effective whistle blowing. What do you think? I wish to have your views on this on the basis of your research findings, please. Thanks
    I. Jheengut

    Juliet Sorensen
    Participant
    Post count: 3

    Dear Mr. Jheengut,

    Thank you for raising this important question. The difficulty of exposing corruption makes a mechanism to support whistleblowers essential. Indeed, the UN Convention Against Corruption makes this clear in Article 33, “Protection of Reporting Persons,” which provides that “Each State Party shall consider incorporating into its domestic legal system appropriate measures to provide protection against any unjustified treatment for any person who reports in good faith and on reasonable grounds to the competent authorities any facts concerning offences established in accordance with this Convention.”

    While legal incentives to whistle blow, such as a portion of a resulting monetary settlement, and legal protections against whistleblower retaliation, in the workplace or otherwise, are necessary to encourage whistleblowing, they are not always sufficient. Our team experienced this firsthand in the course of our research in Sint Maarten. The Kingdom of the Netherlands has long advocated for an “Integrity Chamber” in Sint Maarten that would receive and investigate reports by whistleblowers. However, many on the island are skeptical that such a Chamber would succeed in turning the tide against corruption. On a small island where everyone knows everyone else, will information provided to the Chamber remain confidential? will the Chamber’s staff be trusted? or will, in the words of one interview subject, the Chamber become a sort of “Supersnitch,” a foreboding presence intruding into daily life and basic expectations of privacy? This perception is exacerbated by the push for the Chamber coming not from Sint Maarten itself, but from Europe.

    These concerns notwithstanding, the government of Sint Maarten ultimately acceded to the Netherlands’ demand for the establishment of an Integrity Chamber because it was a condition of the island’s receiving much-needed aid to rebuild after Hurricane Irma. Only time will tell if the Chamber possesses the necessary credibility to be effective and encourage whistleblowing in a SIDs.

    Finally, our research suggested that support for whistleblowing could be furthered by a “fight against corruption” public education campaign. This could range from setting up a website where integrity breach cases are published, to implementing an anonymous and confidential complaint hotline.

    All best wishes,
    Juliet Sorensen and Elise Meyer

    Jheengut
    Moderator
    Post count: 9

    Dear Ms Sorensen
    Greetings from ICAC Mauritius and thank you for sharing your views regarding effective whistle blowing in SIDs. Indeed monetary incentives although necessary are not always sufficient. Integrity and attitude of the citizens are also points for consideration along with public trust and confidence. Yes, education has a key role in changing the mindset and attitudes to gradually change the culture of indifference to a culture of intolerance and reporting of wrongdoings.
    Anonymous reporting is fine but then very often, investigations can not continue due to lack of complimentary information. in such cases, anonymous reporting may result in waste of scarce resources.

    Best wishes

    I Jheengut

    Meyer
    Participant
    Post count: 4

    Dear Y. Hossenbux,

    Thank you for your response and for your important work at ICAC Mauritius. Similar to your experience, we have not conducted much research on CSR especially as it relates to corruption in the era of climate change. It is definitely an area of great importance but seems to represent a gap in the research. I wonder if there is a connection to be made between this topic and sustainable development. Like you, I look forward to learning more!

    All the best,

    Elise

    Meyer
    Participant
    Post count: 4

    Dear Mr. Jheengut,

    Thank you for your thoughtful point. The issue of resource allocation, especially as it pertains to anonymous reporting, is important. Prioritizing anti-corruption measures in a resource-limited environment is key, which is why we provided prioritization of our recommendations in the paper. In addition to prioritization, ensuring anti-corruption measures function efficiently is necessary to ensure the best use of resources. In the context of anonymous reporting and the issue of unsubstantiated reporting, I wonder if the creation of rigorous standards in the intake process might ensure anonymous complaints are supported by as much evidence as possible before an investigation is opened. In addition, the use of defined evaluation dates to determine whether the investigation should continue may also help.

    The SEC Office of the Whistleblower (https://www.sec.gov/whistleblower) may also be a useful resource!

    All the best,

    Elise

    Jheengut
    Moderator
    Post count: 9

    Dear Ms Meyer

    Thank you for sharing your views, especially on anonymous reporting.

    When we think of physical protection of whistle blowers this again becomes a real challenge for SIDS in terms of cost and also in terms of effectiveness of the provision.

    Best wishes

    I Jheengut

    Jheengut
    Moderator
    Post count: 9

    Dear Ms Sorensen and Ms Meyer
    In your paper, you mention the need for incentives to report misbehavior. In case of corruption/money laundering, the issue of incentives may be useful after the successful conclusion of a case upon reporting by someone – may be a percentage of the amount of money seized or recovered. However, this can be tricky if not managed properly within a proper framework. How far can we appeal to the integrity of the individual instead of monetary incentives? What do you think?

    Thanks and best wishes.

    I Jheengut

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