Mark Wignall | Damning OCG report or anticlimax?
It's never easy or pleasurable to read a report from the Office of the Contractor General (OCG), especially one of well over 500 pages. Each investigative strand seems to be more of the same, and a clear pattern is seen.
And then, of course, the broader, more politically connected responses follow, in this case, lawyers for the embattled MP for South East St Ann, Lisa Hanna, vowing to fight for their client because, of course, all is well and no rules were breached.
The pattern of issuing small and medium-size contracts from the municipal corporation offices and the office attached to the MP with CDF and other funds is something that has always confounded those wanting us to tighten up our anti-corruption standards. One would believe that the only thing worse than the details as stated in the OCG report is the very real probability that just about every municipal corporation and constituency office throughout the country operates in similar fashion.
It would not be so bad if tangible results could be seen throughout most constituencies, that is, drains adequately cleaned, roadsides bushed, and road patching done. As one travels throughout the island, the opposite is usually the case. Work is usually doled out at Christmas, and when one examines the 'completed' work, the other pattern is seen. Completed work was not so much the objective as it was to nice up the pocket of party favourites at Christmastime.
The practice of small contractors collecting cheques at municipal corporation or constituency offices, travelling to the bank and changing them, then meeting either councillors or constituency office personnel who would collect the cash and then arbitrarily dole out the remnants of the cash to the 'contractor' is as old as the hills.
Any contractor who insists that since the contract and the cash belong to him and that because he has workers to pay, he is giving no cash to a councillor, will find that he has just received his last contract. Those are the rules of the game in the runnings.
As it relates to South East St Ann, a constituency very expansive in its geographical reach, one would have liked to have seen significant roadwork done on the terribly damaged road from Claremont to Nine Miles, the final resting place of national icon, Bob Marley.
A few weeks ago, I travelled on that road, and I was amazed that tour buses from Ocho Rios are still running the gauntlet of horrible roads literally split in sections and some having to back up when they meet, coming from opposite ends. Imagine Jamaica sitting on top of a Bob Marley gold mine, and this is what we present to our tour buses and visitors eager to make the trip to spiritually link with the late entertainer.
The other item that jumps out at me in the OCG's report is the waffling by many of those people who were questioned, which leads me to ask the following question: In the many contracts issued to do bush-clearing work, drain-cleaning, and white-washing in beautification projects, was the work actually done? One gets the very vivid sense that the OCG report is incomplete.
JLP must do its introspection too
Today, the ruling JLP celebrates another year in power as party members, delegates, and supporters turn out in their numbers to tickle each other's ears and engage in a mutual love fest. It is what political parties in power do.
The opposition PNP has still not found secure footing to make any hard and fast claims of political relevance and electoral viability. That will take some time. In the interim, it just suits the PNP to wait on the JLP administration to make unforced errors.
At the public session of the JLP conference today, expect the party to celebrate the demise of the Opposition and the continued ascendancy of the JLP. Those who care to listen to the messages can either buy into it or reject it, but it's politics as usual.
I expect that much of the political messaging will be all about the latest OCG report into suspected irregularities in issuing contracts in the South East St Ann constituency held by the PNP's Lisa Hanna.
The JLP could not have asked for a better political gift, even in a scenario where I believe that more intellectual and professional rigour should have been exercised by the contractor general.
During most debates in this country where the broken system known as local government, which we either love or hate, depending on how much it doles out to our party favourites or deny them government work, hard orange and green usually face off on either side. Good sense has no place in that debate as the fog of party politics reigns supreme.
Throughout the noise and the fog and the opacity, party supporters will leave the JLP Conference today totally assured that Prime Minister Andrew Holness has found the Holy Grail. At the same time, the PM must wrestle with the deluge that threatened to give Noah's Ark a place of prominence in Montego Bay after recent flooding.
How does his Government plan for these 100-year-like happenings at the same time that he knows too many of our people are active agents operating against the built environment? He knows that many of us are polluters who commit daily acts where we defile the environment.
Our men urinate in the streets and stink up many corners in parish capitals, small towns, inner-city pockets, and rural corner gatherings. He knows that even if he is still seen as having a bigger approval rating than Opposition Leader Peter Phillips, he cannot tell the people what he really thinks of them as a start to making them see themselves in a better light and leading them to change their ways.
Peter Phillips must also fit himself into that mode, where he must pander to the people and just stop short of explaining to them the trip they must take to recover from their destructive habits of the past.
Thus, when our two main leaders are lumped into one big ball of confusion, they have more in common than they are different. They have to butter up the people and fool them and deny them the hard facts on where they have erred generationally in order to lead them out of darkness.
Badness will rule for long
It's just the second time I was seeing him, seated in a wheelchair, not yet 35, both legs withered as the result of a single shot by the police.
He was surrounded by eight young men and all were celebrating criminality and badness. "Badman from the 1980 was real badman. Dem bwoy yah all a hol' up taxi man. Whey dat fah? Badman inna di '80s used to hold up big business. Mi seh mi lose off a dem."
The young man in his wheelchair said, "When mi find out seh mi younger sister a breed, mi stay inna mi wheelchair an shot har a box."
I suggested to him that it was too late if he thought it would have made a change. "But di horse nuh done gone through di gate," I said.
He stared at me as it he didn't hear me, as if it was of no concern to him. Another young man said that he felt like taking back up his AK-47. "For what purpose?" I asked. He totally ignored me.
On Thursday as we spoke, I realised one very important fact. Many of us from different social sections of society are talking past each other. We want endorsement and not any argument that will threaten our hardened positions.
As they continued to speak, I bought a round of drinks then said, "Gentlemen, why is it that many of you are constantly celebrating badness and not seeing any good in doing the right thing?"
They turned away and acted as if I was not there. Again.