Sun | Jun 16, 2019

Daniel Thwaites | The useless and toothless Integrity Commission

Published:Sunday | March 10, 2019 | 12:15 AM

After the untimely passing of Dr Winston Green, I had written a column suggesting that voters pray for their MPs to die. Now I wish to clarify.

It’s not that I want to see anyone (else) in Gordon House kick the bucket, but because by-elections are now the opportunity for an orgy of government spending and, therefore, a windfall for constituents. So the death of your MP is good for you, your roads, your water supply, and your neighbourhood small businesses.

It isn’t at all new, but there’s a garishness and shamelessness that’s at a different level nowadays.

Anyway, by the tragedy of Dr Lynvale Bloomfield’s murder, East Portland is due some good treatment and special attention.

The largesse isn’t due only to the ramping up of every conceivable project, including the essential bushing.

The Gleaner report, headlined ‘East Portland experiencing financial windfall’ was a joyous read:

“Sales have boomed at supermarkets, corner shops, and rum bars, as activists and party workers from both sides of the political divide set up shop in East Portland.”

The Gleaner quotes one bartendress, ‘Likkle Miss’, as saying of the politicians and activists:

Dem spend real dollars and mi happy fi di increase in sales and fi mi boss just a count money so.”

Ahhhhh… good times!

All the same, the likelihood is that the hurried government spending will be targeted towards political purposes, and hence will be wasteful and beset by cronyism. It’s not even just likely, but a virtual certainty.

Law and legality have a tenuous foothold and very little purchase when the political machinery is revved up, or when dealing with the political elite who are permanently revved up.

So further along in this vein, I want to draw attention to The Gleaner ’s editorial ‘Time to really snarl at MPs’, wherein was noted the abysmal compliance rate of our parliamentarians with their annual declaratory requirements. Aside from anything else, it was an enjoyable scorcher from the editorial desk:

“Judging from the ongoing complaint by the Integrity Commission of the failure of legislators to meet filing deadlines, the often incompleteness of those filings and the tardiness of legislators in providing additional, or clarifying information when requested, Jamaica’s Pa rliament appears to be a collective of recidivists… You can expect that more than a third of its members won’t meet the deadlines for filings and that the documents of a substantial portion of those who file will be woefully inadequate.”

Note: “collective of recidivists”! That’s a keeper!

But is it any surprise that everyone else down the food chain feels entitled to flout the law? When the head of the fish is rotten… you know the rest.

Back to the big money poppin in East Portland now.

Remember that the ‘Bushing scandal’ that involved hundreds of millions of dollars (there was a debate about whether it was $600 million or $800 million when it was all said and done) had come about because of the SE St Mary ‘buy-election’.

There’s a magnificent contractor general report on it requiring some follow-up and perhaps a few prosecutions. But the names and personages fingered in the report are too heavy for our prosecutors and court system to handle. Or so it would seem.

Because exactly who are we kidding? And they’re not going to offer any explanations. They know that we know that they know that “nutten naw guh come outa it”.

All the same, it’s far better when the public has the information out there and available. And for that we have to thank the old Office of the Contractor General.

But where is Dirk Harrison and the Office of the Contractor General at a time like this?

Nowhere to be found!

Silenced by having been enveloped in the new umbrella ‘Integrity Commission’.

A DEFINITIVE SETBACK

Here is an instance where a reform touted as an improvement has turned out to be a definitive setback. One has to wonder if it was intentional, and whether because the OCG had become a legit pain in the ass to whichever government was in power, it has been effectively shuttered.

It is certainly debatable if the OCG was always and in every instance on point with its investigations and announcements. But it is beyond debate that it was effective at highlighting problems and potential problems, and as important, driving fear into the heart of miscreants.

Why have we given that up?

The newfangled, supposedly ‘reformed’, Integrity Commission is turning out to be a total dud. It is a samfie ting that has essentially robbed the country of the effective watchdog that existed and put in place a toothless and largely useless replacement.

For example, I have it on pretty good information that there are over one hundred thousand declarations outstanding for public servants in the former Commission For the Prevention of Corruption, now also under the useless and toothless Integrity Commission.

Think about that for a moment.

Over one hundred thousand! So The Gleaner , railing at the recidivist parliamentarians, is just scratching the surface of the rotten fish head.

Take note: In the year since the formation of the useless and toothless Integrity Commission, not a single matter has been taken to court. Rumour has it that not even all the directors have received instruments of appointment.

What evidence is there that it should be taken at all seriously?

Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com