Turks and Caicos Islands: charting a course to a corruption-free future

Turks and Caicos Islands image

Photo: CC Flickr / Wumpiewoo

Today, Transparency International (TI) is publishing a report which evaluates how well the institutions in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) tackle corruption. We call this a National Integrity Systems (NIS) report and it covers everything from government departments and the police to non-governmental organisations and the media.

The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory located in the Caribbean, best known as a high-end tourist destination which is “beautiful by nature”.

In 2009, however, the TCI made headlines for entirely different reasons.

Following an official inquiry which found a high probability of systemic corruption in government and the public service – mostly related to the sale of crown land to private property developers – in August of 2009 the Constitution was partially suspended and the British government resumed executive direction on an interim basis.

A similar problem had affected the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1986. How can the country make sure this does not occur a third time?

TI´s National Integrity System report, which focuses on the period leading up to August 2009, helps to understand how this pervasive corruption could take hold. Rather than focusing on individual cases, the NIS report looks at the 13 pillars of integrity which should – if functioning correctly – help a nation to withstand the threat of corruption. These pillars include the legislative, executive, judiciary and law enforcement agencies, and also the media, business, political parties and civil society, among others.

The key idea is that each of these pillars has a role to play in maintaining national integrity. In the same way as hurricane defenses help a house withstand a storm, a strong National Integrity System helps to prevent, detect, and punish corrupt actions which could otherwise over time potentially put the whole governance of a country at risk.

The research in the Turks and Caicos Islands was led by Dr Trevor Munroe, a highly respected Jamaican academic, journalist and civil society activist and involved extensive consultation with Turks and Caicos Islanders: civil society, media, business, politicians and public officials. It showed that in the period leading up to the partial suspension of the Constitution, the National Integrity System of Turks and Caicos was “weakening and in danger of collapse”.

The results suggest that it was precisely this overall systemic weakness which gave individual actors the space to pursue their own interests at the expense of the common good.

With the goal of helping to minimize the risk of corruption returning to the Turks and Caicos Islands once the interim administration period ends, the report looks in detail at the strengths and weaknesses of each of the 13 pillars prior to August 2009, and makes specific forward-looking recommendations for each one.

The main recommendations aim at:

  • making key institutions more transparent and accountable
  • strengthening the legislative framework, including legislation to cover political party registration, funding and campaign financing
  • boosting the capacity of the law enforcement agencies
  • A programme of education and awareness raising on the damaging effects of corruption

TI hopes that this NIS report will be a useful tool for all stakeholders working towards building a sustainable corruption-free future for the Turks and Caicos Islands.

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