When Corruption and Ethics collide
Book: The Blooming System
Author: Sheldon Peart
Sheldon Peart's That Blooming System is an artful work that imitates life to the ninth degree. It is here that good conscience is turned on its head, and the edict we are our brother's keeper, is shredded and discarded.
Protagonist Nedson Pedley is an ambitious and able young man caught in a maelstrom of political corruption, cronyism and thievery on the fictional Caribbean island of St George.
Pedley, at a young age, baulks at the lassitude, monotony, and sterility of his surroundings. Born out of season, he shows his intolerance, uttering, "I would never understand why big, grown men, are so contented with a slavery-like existence. Why would Maas Busha and the others, and their children, do the same back-breaking, unrewarding work every day, year after miserable year, for their entire lives?" He convinces himself that he "would break [the] village chain of drudgery".
If Pedley sought a more capturing existence, he finds that, and more, at the National Development Bureau. There, partisanship and naked corruption are laid bare.
Pedley is measured, intelligent, efficient, and above all, observant. He quickly identifies discrepancies in contractual agreements and invoices. His keen eyes are met with resistance, threats, and accusations of being a mole, a political spy for the opposition party.
He is counselled by a seasoned worker, " ... I'm here to encourage you not to allow anyone to intimidate you. You are a promising lad. This place will corrupt you, if you are greedy and weak. Many of the workers are crooked, and most of the politicians dishonest. But you are from a Christian home, and that should make you survive."
Frustration with a stubbornly recalcitrant system boils over.
Pedley is warmed: "It pains my heart ... But you tell me, what do you do when the same names appear on politicians' work programme's, month after month, and your red flag tells you that many of these persons are close relatives, and others have done no work? What the hell you do when you hear from a reliable source that certain officers and politicians have prepared fictitious contracts in order to purchase tyres, or pay for repairs to their motor vehicles? And what do you do when you can't identify the fictitious contracts at a glance, and the thieves are aware that you haven't got the wherewithal to investigate all the worksites throughout the parish?"
Pedley, startled, is all ears. "You're too young even to begin to understand the extent of their corruption. Let me give you a real striking case. A few years ago, the chairman's nephew acquired some heavy-duty trucks and road construction equipment ... the whole works. He formed a company called 'We Construct Ltd' ... I am talking about a
"It was no coincidence that 90 per cent of all contracts in the bureau was awarded to 'We Construct Ltd.' Nearly all of the politicians found favour with this contractor, despite bids from several other eligible contractors."
Reality soaks in. Pedley understands the corrupt labyrinth that threatens to smother him.
He is forced to reassess his standing. Integrity is his only compass. He peers into the rotting soul of his surroundings. "I had come to realise that the political representatives at the bureau were uneducated, for the most part, yet they sought to disregard the advice of the officers employed to inform and guide their decisions. In fact, they would abuse and tear down any officer who stood up to them ..."
Laboured by overt corruption workers challenge the chairman of the bureau and its politically laden culture. Workers strike and a foreboding atmosphere spread through the parish. Mayhem ensues as one worker cries out,
" ... it is much about us, the little worker, who the politicians kick around every day, and fire when they want their people to get the work".
Gradually, the tides turn and the unscrupulous are brought to justice. The fate of others hang in the balance. In a prophetic tone, the outgoing CEO of the bureau cautions all who dare listen, "You have accused me of coming here to send people to prison. I have said no such thing. But if I have failed in any area, it is my inability to gather enough evidence to have sent more of you to prison. But it will happen. Those who will succeed me, and the older ones of us, will continue the fight to rid the bureau of corruption."
The transfer of Pedley and his colleagues - the good guys - is telling. The fate of this young man is anyone's guess. And so, too, is the future of the bureau and the two political parties that jockey for unbridled power.
With bated breaths we anticipate the denouement of this saga.
Surely, Peart has delivered a narrative with far-reaching implications. In many ways, 'Blooming' is a indictment on nations pillaged by self-serving politicians and their cohorts.
Political excess, tribalism and cronyism have made beggars of nations. Such is the devastation of corruption; such is the consummate evil of greed. For sheer relevance, Peart has scored big. Really big.