The lack of transparency surrounding the finances of the CARICOM Secretariat has found its way into the “Golding Report,” which examines relations between Jamaica and CARICOM and CARIFORUM, with a call for the revamping of the institution’s accountability procedures.
The report was commissioned by the Jamaican government with the investigating commission chaired by the former prime minister Bruce Golding.
The former regional leader presented a synopsis of the report, which includes some 33 recommendations, on Friday, before an expert panel put together by the University of the West Indies at its regional headquarters at Mona, Jamaica.
“We have made some very strong statements about the capacity of CARICOM; the lack of transparency. None of you can go on the web now and download CARICOM’s budget; it’s a classified document.”
According to Golding, the commission was “shocked” when it learnt this and spent a lot of time trying to get information from the CARICOM agencies on their budgets, subscription levels for each member state, and the level of arrears.
“And we got from all the institutions. When we couldn’t hear from the Secretariat and we started harassing them they refused. They said sorry we can’t divulge that information.”
Golding said they pointed out that they had received similar information from the other CARICOM institutions to which the Secretariat double-downed on its confidentiality stance.
“They sent back to us … if you have received information about the budgets, subscription, and level of arrears, the Secretariat wishes to advise that that information is confidential and you’re requested not to make it public,” Golding relayed.
He added that the commission responded that such information was readily available for the United Nations and continued that that confidentiality must be dismantled in the interest of building trust in the organisation.
“The Secretariat says we’re not to disclose their numbers but I’m going to take the liberty of saying to you that the budget of the Secretariat and the various institutions, not including the CARICOM Development Fund, is roughly equivalent to the budget of the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies.”
According to Jamaican media reports, in 2016 the government allocated some JAM $8.3 billion (U.S. $66 million) to the Mona Campus, which represented some 20 percent of the university’s budget.
But according to Golding, what was also “worrying” was that more than 50 percent of CARICOM’s budget comes from donor countries with about 42 to 47 percent from member states.
“There’s the possibility of compromise in terms of policy position and there’s also the possibility of disappointment, and we saw this particularly after the financial meltdown where countries were reducing their contributions because they were facing financial difficulties themselves,” he said.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)