Gibraltar is plagued constantly with rumours of corruption and bribery. True, indifferent or false does not matter. These rumours are destructive and give a negative image. There is a need to deal with this situation for the benefit of the jurisdiction and of citizens. Dealing with it will also avoid the complacency and resignation to this subject that is often seen and shown to be prevalent.
Gibraltar should strive to ensure and provide the means by which people, within and without Gibraltar, can be confident that its executive, administration and legislature adhere to internationally recognised standards of, governmental, administrative and parliamentary behaviour. Recent events relating to MPs’ and Lords’ expenses in the UK Parliament are indicative of the need for constant vigilance and action even in that Parliament.
A lack of oversight and review of standards that need to be maintained by ministers, members of parliament, administrators and legislators can lead to standards dropping. The consequence can be that acts, which are seen from the subjective perspective of the individuals or persons engaged in the particular act to be an acceptable standard of behaviour, if analysed objectively would be unacceptable. A downward spiral can ensue if there is no objective overview. The possibility of a spiral of this nature coming about in any sector of government in Gibraltar needs to be diminished. The Coalition for Reform believes that this can be achieved by the introduction of independent systems that are established to strive for the achievement of objective and not subjective standards.
Consequently, the Coalition for Reform proposes the establishment of an independent Anti-Corruption Authority. The proposal is that the Judicial Services Commission will appoint the Anti-Corruption Authority. This method of appointment will ensure the same independence for the Authority as is guaranteed by this Commission’s appointment of judges. A lawyer and accountant would need to participate in the executive of the Authority. The executive would need to be carefully chosen to have the necessary independence, strength of character and disconnect from society so as to ensure its additional effectiveness, free from local partial influences. There is a precedent for this, for example, in the constitution of the Financial Services Commission.
The Coalition for Reform will promote a review of existing corruption and bribery laws and update these based on internationally accepted standards. The reformed laws that will flow from this review will further define, prohibit and criminalise unacceptable behaviour and practices. The Coalition for Reform envisages that the Authority will receive confidential reports of breaches of these laws and investigate such reports. It will also be empowered to investigate of its own volition any other relevant matters coming to its attention. The intention is that the Anti-Corruption Authority will be endowed with full powers of investigation and prosecution, subject to the Attorney General’s constitutional responsibility and power to finally decide on the prosecution of any case.