Brookings: Haitian Government Needs to be Transparent

While there has been a clamor for the Haitian government to step up to the plate in rebuilding the quake-hit nation, the international community has seemed to have overlooked the need to combat high-level political corruption in the Caribbean nation, The Brookings Institution argues.

Aside from petty forms of corruption, powerful elites seem to have undeniable influence over the Haitian government’s executive and legislative branches, a phenomenon the institution dubs as state capture.

“State capture takes place when powerful elite interests, often from well-connected private individuals or corporations, exercise undue influence or outright control in the shaping of the rules, laws and policies of the state,” according to Daniel Kaufmann of The Brookings Institution. “Such capture can also extend to influence the public procurement system and its bid awards, as well as take the form of elite interests ‘capturing’ influential government positions.”

Kaufmann suggested that Haiti’s reconstruction strategy also deal with conflicts of interests among government officials and members of the legislature and judiciary, and improvements in the procurement system, among others.

The idea of setting up a temporary development agency has also been floated by the institution. Adjunct professor at George Washington University Law School Jack Smith recommended that such agency be staffed with both foreign and local experts “of proven competence and integrity from both the international community and the Haitian government.”

He added: “The agency must have full enforcement powers, including authority to issue administrative fines and prosecute criminal violations before a special anti-corruption court, which must be established by the government as an early order of business. Government employees need to become accustomed to these and other transparent government initiatives during the reconstruction period if they are to be embedded as the accepted method of operation in the Haitian government when the emergency is over.”

To further ensure that aid for Haiti will not end up being wasted, all government employees must be required to submit statements of assets annually, Smith suggested.

About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.