Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Phillip Dennis | Can Holness teach old dogs new tricks?

Published:Wednesday | July 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM

I took particular notice and interest in the statement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness that the Cabinet will undergo good governance training. This was announced in response to the spate of allegations within the public space of corruption, nepotism, cronyism, ministerial interference, and abuse of power, and the bypassing of established systems of procurement to award contracts to the genetically connected.

This announcement was really meant to catch the unsuspected and those who might be easily fooled by such rhetorical nonsense. The prime minister could not be serious in suggesting that his Cabinet of seasoned ministers, some of whom served under Edward Seaga and Bruce Golding, would really need a session in good-governance training to change their behaviour or perception of the culture of malfeasance that has taken over the Government. At least seven of the present clique served as ministers in the Seaga administration. They are seasoned practitioners.

Therefore, they are not deficient in knowledge about good governance. Moreover, the structure of the civil service is of such that good-governance practices would be passed on in the course of executing policies.

 

A SIMPLE PROBLEM

 

The problem we face is simple. There is a set of personalities appointed by the prime minister who are determined to break the rules and carry out their malfeasance to preserve their political dominance. Whether the prime minister subjects these personalities to good-governance training 101 or an advance lecture in the same practice, their behaviour would remain the same.

Take a moment to imagine a good-governance training session of ministers. In your imagination, who would you place in the front row? These are my picks for the front row: Wheatley for Petrojam, NESOL, USF and de-bushing; Montague for FLA, used cars and de-bushing; Tufton for dead babies, CRH, and dogs feasting on dead babies; Samuda for Mombasa grass; Grange for allegedly giving a J$15-million contract artistic director for 2017 Independence celebration; Spencer for his statement of political victimisation to RADA; Robinson for NIF and de-bushing; Shaw for his J$8.34 million phone bill; Bartlett for Seiveright's J$9-million air travel expenses; Ruel Reid for the mishandling of the information portfolio; and Warmington for statements of political victimisation and de-bushing.

When Prime Minister Holness took office, he promised zero tolerance in regard to certain behaviour and that he would hold his ministers to a high standard of accountability. To date, he has done nothing to satisfy this proclamation, and, in fact, might have made the situation worse by his inaction.

While the Petrojam scandal unfolds, the country awaits information on what really happened to the 200 used cars that were purchased for the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). The company contracted to supply the cars to the police failed to deliver the vehicles during the prescribed periods and has not yet accounted for the J$426.9 million given to supply the vehicles.

When will the country be told what happened in the used-car saga and who is accountable?

Disappointingly, the systems in which we have invested to safeguard against malfeasance have failed. We are supposed to be a country governed by laws, with systems of good-governance administration, but instead, all we are experiencing is systems failure all around.

As it stands now, everything is done in secret and no one communicates with the people regarding ongoing investigations. No one knows, and the press hardly follows up or holds anyone accountable.

Despite all our laws and our apparent sophistication, for the most part, we remain nothing but a banana republic.

- Phillip Dennis is a creative design specialist and community activist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and dennisphillip82@gmail.com.