Photo: Hon. Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service, Constitutional and Political Reform; Anti-corruption stakeholders
by Kristen Ku
BELMOPAN, Thurs. Nov. 23, 2023
The Ministry of Public Service, Constitutional and Political Reform, in collaboration with entities such as the Integrity Commission, UNDP, UNODC, the US Embassy, and the Taiwan Embassy, marked the beginning of Anti-Corruption Month on Wednesday, November 22 with an event that was held in Belmopan, where a calendar of activities planned for the upcoming weeks, aimed at promoting good governance and combating corruption across all government sectors, was unveiled.
The three-week anti-corruption awareness period leads up to December 9, International Anti-Corruption Day.
Cesar Ross, Director of Good Governance in the Ministry, outlined the month’s activities in an interview. “We are providing an orientation to all line ministries over the course of the next week on being able to identify corruption and understanding its impact and how to root it out,” Ross explained. He spoke about the importance of the Integrity Walk planned for December 4, when banners will be displayed in every municipality to bring attention to the fight against corruption.
Another key event is the National Anti-Corruption Conference on December 7, which will feature discussions on the prevalence and impact of corruption across various sectors. So far, representatives from the media, youth leadership alliances, the National Women’s Council, UNDP, and officials from the Contractor General’s and Auditor General’s Offices have been invited to present their perspectives and strategies against corruption.
Responding to criticisms that talks and marches are insufficient to combat corruption, Ross agreed that action is essential. He said that their aim is to extract a strategy from these events, and to create a five to ten-year plan with the goal of advancing the anti-corruption agenda through changes in policies, laws, and operations at all levels of governance.
Hon. Charles Henry Usher, Minister of Public Service, was also present at this event, and he emphasized Belize’s commitment to international anti-corruption treaties, including the UN Convention Against Corruption and the OAS Convention Against Corruption.
“It’s not only implementing the treaty, it’s not only signing the treaty, but there are a series of laws, there are a series of regulations that you have to implement as a country to be able to comply with the treaty. I think the Belizean people should know that, yes, the Government of Belize is doing its part in complying with all of our obligations on these different treaties,” Usher stated.
He highlighted recent improvements in government operations, such as the enhancement of the Public Accounts Committee, the introduction of the Protected Disclosures Bill, and the implementation of the Civil Assets Recovery Legislation. Addressing areas where Belize is lagging, Usher mentioned awaiting a UNODC report to prioritize actions for better compliance with the UN Convention.
Hon. Usher cited the establishment of the Good Governance Unit and the training of public officers in good governance as critical steps in addressing public skepticism about government efforts to curb corruption. “We have signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Galen University and also signed an MOU with the University of Belize to have better training opportunities for public officers. Those public officers who graduate from the Good Governance curriculum, are now responsible for going back into their departments and into their ministries and carrying out these same types of training within the ministries and departments,” Hon. Usher explained.
The end-of-conference declaration and subsequent assessments in the public sector are expected to lead to obtainable steps, emphasizing transparency, accountability, and public empowerment in the fight against corruption.