Sat | May 30, 2020

Canute S. Thompson | Attacking anti-corruption activist? …Testing Tapia’s truthfulness

Published:Saturday | February 8, 2020 | 12:00 AM

United States Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia has unleashed a broadside against an unnamed, though easily identified, anti-corruption activist in Jamaica.

Among Tapia’s claims are that the anti-corruption activist has accused the Holness administration of corruption, without providing proof, and further that the USA has not received value for money for the support it has given to the organisation led by this anti-corruption activist.

The fact of this broadside is breathtaking when one considers that two reports prepared by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2015 and again in 2019 made no such finding.

But it is clearly the new norm for the USA to ignore real facts and promote alternative facts (aka falsehood) in the service of some other agenda. The ambassador’s boss and namesake Donald Trump has made a business of this.

Take, for example, the unanimous assessment of his country’s 17 intelligence agencies and the definitive findings of Bob Mueller that Russia interfered in the 2016 general elections. Despite these findings, Trump has insisted on trying to put the blame on Ukraine, even when the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee found that it was Russia.

So here we have an ambassador, who says he is committed to not interfering in local politics, exonerating (another popular word these days) the Holness administration of corruption and attacking an activist for failing to provide proof.

But Tapia goes further. He contends that corrupt actions by members of an administration do not make an administration corrupt. This is even more breathtaking.

So the actions of Ruel Reid and Andrew Wheatley are not a reflection of the administration, and I suppose it would be the three ministers named in the Office of the Contractor General’s (OCG) debushing report who are corrupt, not the administration.

And I imagine the ambassador would hold this view even though, in relation to the debushing scandal, the OCG in its 2017 report found that the decision to commit $600 million for debushing was made by Cabinet which the prime minister chairs.

It is to be recalled that prior to the taking of the decision to spend $600 million, which was spent in 10 days, the National Works Agency had advised Cabinet that it normally spends $100 million for this activity. Despite this technical advice, the PM ordered that $600 million be spent. That is not corruption.

THE USAID REPORTS ON CORRUPTION IN JAMAICA

To help us better understand the work being done in Jamaica by anti-corruption activists, I offer some findings and conclusions from the 2015 and 2019 USAID reports.

The 2019 report, which was issued in November, is titled ‘Final Performance Evaluation of Combating Corruption and Strengthening Integrity in Jamaica Activity’, and the 2015 report is titled ‘Combating Corruption in Jamaica’. Fortuitously, the 2015 report was made during the People’s National Party (PNP) administration and the 2019 the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP).

Paragraph two of the executive summary of the 2015 report reads in part:

“…interviews, focus groups, and a nationally representative survey…conducted in nine parishes…found strong internal evidence that USAID’s project has succeeded in raising Jamaican awareness and fostering a national dialogue around corruption and integrity issues. It played a critically important role in fostering political transparency through the efforts of the Jamaican NGO implementing it – National Integrity Action (NIA).”

I am not making this up.

In the summary of findings, on page 10, under the heading ‘What has worked well and why’, the report states:

“…Jamaica’s statutory bodies involved in the anti-corruption efforts regard the project as a trusted source of expertise and skills training. While the project sought to place these issues on the national stage, NIA, as project implementer, went beyond these goals, moving from an organisation simply promoting awareness of corruption to one improving the supply of anti-corruption institutions (improving laws, streamlining procedures and training officials…”

In the November 2019 report, published during the incumbency of Ambassador Tapia, the following conclusions contained in the report are instructive:

The Combating Corruption and Strengthening Integrity in Jamaica (CCSIJ) activity…

“…has increased the capacity of partner organisations to build public demand for action against corruption…;

“…(shows) level of results positively (which) included…the strong leadership and team of NIA…;

“(shows) substantial evidence…that CCSIJ was developed and implemented with attention towards value for money;

“…has had positive effects on the enabling environments for combating corruption….”

IS THERE ANOTHER AGENDA?

Given that Ambassador Tapia’s own agency made favourable and highly commendable findings about the anti-corruption activities in Jamaica, his assertions which run contrary to those documented findings must be presumed to be for some grander and possibly a more sinister plot.

The mere fact that the ambassador made assertions not supported by his own findings is enough to conclude that there is a grander plan. For this reason, we must ask what is that grander plan.

Canute S. Thompson, PhD, CMC, is head of the Caribbean Centre for Educational Planning; lecturer in educational policy, planning, and leadership; chair of the business development committee; and co-founder and chief consultant at The Caribbean Leadership Re-Imagination Initiative, at The University of the West Indies, Mona. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com