There needs to be a major change in the way governance and accountability are practised in the Caribbean, a university professor has suggested.
Professor of Accounting at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Philmore Alleyne suggested that, among other things, corporate social responsibility be made mandatory.
Delivering the inaugural Professorial Lecture entitled, Examining Governance and Accountability in the Caribbean: Rooting Out Corruption, he contended that there was “not a lot of openness” in the region.
“We need to create a change. The way the Caribbean is structured is that it has a lot of weak institutional frameworks. Some of it is because we have little resources but some of it is a resistance to change too, because normally to get something done we put a lot of bureaucratic red tape in front of it to say that it can’t work…but when it suits the individual, they can now find a way to get it done. Now that flippant way has to change and it is something that we need to do,” the Professor maintained.
He explained that in most instances, the issue of corporate governance was only raised whenever there was a corporate collapse or some form of corporate governance failure.
Professor Alleyne said this was evident in the collapses of Enron, the 2008 financial meltdown, and the demise of CLICO as well as the Hindu Credit Union in Trinidad and Tobago.
He pointed to the fact that in the Caribbean people were not usually held accountable.
Professor Alleyne said 11 years after the collapse of CLICO, former chairman and chief executive officer Leroy Parris was charged with fraud and granted bail.
He said thousands of persons had lost their investments in CLICO while 300 policyholders had died before getting their payouts.
Speaking specifically about Barbados, Professor Alleyne said a 2020 study looked at integrity issues on the island, including unregulated political party and election spending, which he said served as a precursor to integrity legislation.
He also spoke to the declaration of assets and liabilities of persons in public life, allegations of misconduct in public life and the appointment process of key officials in the judiciary.
Professor Alleyne said while the Barbados Labour Party administration recently made an attempt to pass integrity legislation, it was unfortunate it was foiled.
He predicted that legislation would be brought up at the next election.
“It was a bold attempt to implement legislation, because every time corruption comes up it is when there is an election. A year or so after, nobody is interested in the corruption anymore so it becomes a political tool,” Professor Alleyne said.
“As life would have it, in August 2020 it was defeated. I guess it will probably come back up around election time.”
Among several recommendations put forward to better shape the region’s governance structures was diversifying boards, by including more women; and establishing an ethics committee, mechanisms for whistleblowing and full disclosures in annual reports and on websites.