Sun | May 28, 2017

Destructive dragon on the loose

Published:Monday | January 12, 2015 | 1:00 AM

There is a horrendous, destructive monster of a dragon on the loose in Jamaica. It started out life as a miniscule egg, incubated deep under layers of public and private bureaucratic red

tape, inefficiencies, excesses and administrative shortfalls.

The little egg hatched into an innocuous little entity that quietly wormed and slithered its way through the various management systems and made itself versatile with every aspect of procedures and practices.

It found the government systems of management to be the most fertile ground for its growth and development. It made itself available to the frustrated, the unfairly treated and the desperate who genuinely needed urgent attention from antiquated, lumbering and clumsy systems. The establishment has always been either too slow to adapt to the needs of the citizens that it serves and/or unwilling to keep abreast of the modern times.

The more that people sought the services of the little entity, the bigger it grew and the more it learnt how to circumvent and/or shortcut procedures and speed up transactions. Soon, it was used for financial reasons and not only to get things done quickly for friends or for people in need of quick service. It became much faster and stronger and recruited public servants throughout the length and breadth of the various ministries, departments and the ranks of the security forces.

a dynamic entity

As it grew, it adapted itself to changing circumstances and ran rings around the established system that remained inflexible and adversarial. A lot of people came to have a 'link' here and 'somebody' there who worked for the little entity part time. Such relationships became symbiotic and synergistic. All parties seemed to benefit.

But, soon, using the services of the little entity was viewed as the way that things got done. It became an alternative institution; intertwined, interlinked and interwoven with the lumbering and dim-witted official system. The little entity eventually grew into a full-sized, malevolent, destructive dragon.

The hideous dragon employs greedy, maleficent and mendacious civil servants. These villainous miscreants and their network of cohorts destroy documents and falsify others. They leak information on contracts and orchestrate who gets how much of what and when.

The dragon of corruption has a massive head that reaches far up the administrative hierarchy, flames that consume many millions in potential government revenue annually, huge claws hooked deeply and locked into various systems, sharp and menacing teeth ready to kill anyone who threatens its welfare and existence, and a very long, slimy and prehensile tail that entangles and latches on tightly to the many 'little people' within the system, entrusted with the responsibility to carry out their duties but chose to serve the dragon instead.

a quiet demon

The dragon of corruption is cloaked in nice clothes and fancy job titles. It is camouflaged as decent-looking, highly placed public officials and as entry-level public servants. It does not roar or shout loudly, it speaks softly on telephones, texts quietly to partners in crime, whispers in the ears of influential people, mingles unobtrusively at social gatherings and subtly hisses menacingly at those who try to stop it.

It has made many public servants and public officials wealthy at the expense of hard-working, tax-paying citizens. It has siphoned off many tens of millions from international loans and large contracts. It is nepotistic, unconscionable and bestows power and invulnerability to many individuals from every stratum in society. It is sucking the life and soul out of Jamaica while suckling thousands of its insatiable dependents.

The recent Corruption Perception Index ranked Jamaica 83 out of 174 countries. I submit that things are far worse than that. I pray for the day when even one leader is apolitical enough and brave enough to save Jamaica from the dragon.

Government systems need to be much more efficient and user-friendly; allow and encourage consumer feedback/complaints; be monitored closely by a designated committee and employ frequent and random sting operations to snag corrupt individuals.

n Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice.

Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com