Fri | Aug 7, 2020

Mark Wignall | Cloudy issue in the Integrity Commission report

Published:Sunday | July 12, 2020 | 12:17 AM
Bahado-Singh
Bahado-Singh

On page 196 of the Integrity Commission report, one section goes as follows: “Based on the documentary evidence provided herein, the director of investigation questions whether the strategic placement of certain individuals in key positions at Petrojam Limited served as corruption enabling mechanisms.”

That is a most damning statement in such a report, and of course, one would expect that in the director of investigation making it out that a number of individuals had somehow conspired to set themselves up in social and political proximity so that they could complete a web that made “corruption enabling” into the desired synergy, the hard evidence would be stated and done so with blistering certainty.

Unfortunately, that does not happen, and what is ‘investigated’, figured out, or psychologically guessed at is provided as early evidence. Because, of course, clairvoyance as premise to evidence and findings has gained new prominence in our convenient jurisprudence.

This is not a court of law where adrenaline-pumped lawyers outbid each other for top seats at the Acting Awards. These are findings from an important legal investigative entity. They ought to stand up to basic review.

What follows is this: “The strategic placement of certain individuals is evidenced by the appointment of Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh and Richard Creary to the board of Petrojam Limited. Bahado-Singh and Creary thereafter interviewed Floyd Grindley for the position of general manager, Petrojam Limited, a post to which he was selected as the successful candidate.”

Is the commission saying that if somehow, it could be determined that all three individuals knew each other, then a suspicion of at least an intention to enact corruption would naturally follow? Let us even forget that the commission has had to admit that it got it wrong about Richard Creary.

The commission, after stating that Creary attended a board meeting where Grindley was appointed, has been forced to retract that after Mayor Creary insisted he attended no such meeting.

I hate to ask this, but it begs asking. If the commission got such a simple thing wrong, what else may it have got wrong? It is usual that as reports like this gain prominence in our lives from time to time, it should be less of a guessing game and more certainty and authenticity as these reports are announced and discussed.

WHEATLEY SEEKING REDRESS

Sometimes I really wonder why it is that certain types of people are attracted to party politics. I am also confounded by the reasons they stick it out, especially if there is no good ‘before and after’ picture after the first ten years.

Back in the 1990s, Eddie Seaga and I sat down for 10 minutes, and he said, “I tell these youngsters wanting to involve themselves in representative politics, ‘Get your personal and economic lives straight. Until you do that, leave politics alone.’”

The July 7 report has drawn a bead on former Minister of Energy, Science and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley. It has accused him of nepotism, cronyism, and dishonesty. A few days ago, Wheatley publicly refuted those allegations, and he has filed a claim in the Supreme Court for judicial review.

According to a release from the lawyer representing Wheatley, he “is asking the court for an order of mandamus requiring” public exoneration of impropriety and nepotism.

Unlike some of the power implied in the script of the Integrity Commission, that of probably knowing what is in the mind of some of those it investigated, I can only go by the history of various reports in this country, and those have been noted for instituting only piecemeal changes and legislation that oftentimes leads to new loopholes to outwit the system and the law.

But to me, what is even more dangerous are those times when a ‘spoiler’, in essence, a good and decent person who has stood for too long in the way of lawbreakers and corrupt political administrators, is set up and destroyed by the very system that claims authenticity.

OH, I KNOW YOU

Jamaica is a small country, and there is hardly any place within our borders of 4,000-plus square miles that we cannot find someone we know. Or know of.

Much of the premise guiding some of the findings in the Integrity Commission report is that too many of the players cited in the Petrojam Limited matter knew each other. Well, that has certainly bowled me for a duck.

I do believe that Jamaica has to adopt a seriousness about instituting skills banks at all levels in this country. At the community level, it must begin, and at the other extreme, where the highly skilled exist and are potential employees in political administration or are rare specialists, they should be out there, names online if they wish to register.

Every powerful Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) person knows another powerful JLP person. The same relationship exists on the other side, and many JLP powerhouses are friends and acquaintances with each other.

One party wins, and when boards are going to be formed, that party is going to go for the individuals that it is comfortable with. As I implied before, the present system may need a lot of refining, but until that time, those in the political arena will tend to gravitate to playing on boards those who they know.

And under even the most dire circumstance, it cannot be that in a report that carries such heft, an indicator of wrongdoing is the fact that certain persons knew each other.

I will repeat it, not only because it bolsters my case, that some amount of sloppiness crept into the Integrity Commission report, but if they got it wrong that Creary was at a meeting when he was not and they had to eat crow and admit he really wasn’t there, what else is there in that document that renders whole sections of it suspect and not able to stand up to the very rigours that it states were not adhered to by those it accuses?

Mark Wignall is a political- and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.